Synagogues and a JCC weather another COVID storm • Best eats for Tu Bishvat • A nonbinary prayer book


Shabbat shalom, New York. The long weekend begins with National Bagel Day (on a Saturday?!). More significantly, it continues Sunday night with the start of Tu Bishvat, and climaxes Monday with Martin Luther King Jr. Day. See below for a range of MLK Day events happening this weekend. 

Remember that you can catch up on the best of the week’s reporting with our printable, downloadable “Jewish Week/end” email. Sign up here, and it will arrive in your inbox  every Friday. Find today’s edition here.

CENTER STAGE: Can New York City rebound from yet the latest COVID-19 wave? One bellwether is the JCC Manhattan on the Upper West Side. The JCC’s brand-new director, Rabbi Joanna Samuels, talks to The Jewish Week about her plans for a post-COVID comeback and for healing a neighborhood divided by politics and religion.

HERE WE GO AGAIN: Omicron’s relentless spread has raised — yet again — questions about safety, social distancing and the complications of virtual worship for weary synagogues. “I quoted ‘The Godfather’ in one my newsletters: ‘Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in,’” says Rabbi Heidi Hoover, who leads Beth Shalom v’Emeth, a Reform congregation in Brooklyn. Ben Sales reports for JTA.

NY NOSHER: Whenever there is a Jewish celebration, there’s Jewish food — in the case of Tu Bishvat, fruits, nuts and other delicacies that recall the Land of Israel. The Jewish Week rounded up seven of our favorite shops that specialize in delicious bulk dried fruits and nuts.

INCLUSIVE PRAYER: Composer, playwright, New Yorker and trans Jew brin solomon has created a new prayer book for people who have felt excluded by the traditional language of prayer. The customizable “Siddur Davar Ḥadash” features nonbinary Hebrew forms and unique pronouns for God in English. solomon talks about the project with our colleagues at Alma.


Even Moses, too weary to lift his arms, needed his community’s support to lead his people into battle. That’s a lesson for all leaders — and followers — in challenging times like ours, writes Rabbi Wendy Pein, director of congregational learning at Temple Israel of Northern Westchester.


Temple Shaaray Tefila presents an MLK Shabbat and Shabbat Shira service with guest Allen Zerkin, adjunct professor of Public Administration at NYU’s Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service. He will speak about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, the subject of the recent documentary “Summer of Soul.” Tonight, 6:15-7:30 p.m. Get info here to watch online.

Following Shabbat services, Lab/Shul presents a panel discussion focused on urban farming, agriculture, food justice and sustainability. The panel includes Latonya Assanah, the Agriculture Director at HarlemGrown, Mark Winston Griffith of The Brooklyn Movement Center, and Andrew Davidov, a master’s candidate at USC in Urban Planning and Government Policies. Tonight, 6:30-7:30 p.m.

Temple Emanu-El will be streaming its annual interfaith Martin Luther King, Jr. Worship Service tonight at 6:00 p.m. on its websiteFacebook, and YouTube pages.  The service will feature Reverend Dr. Gary V. Simpson and the congregation of The Concord Baptist Church of Christ.

Rev. Dr. Timothy Adkins-Jones, pastor of the historic Bethany Baptist Church, will join Central Synagogue in person and in a virtual class and Havdalah on Saturday, Jan. 15, 6:00-7:15 p.m. He’ll discuss how to “work together across religious communities to bring more light into the world.”

Members of Bnai Jeshurun and Repair the World will package hygiene kits at JCC Harlem which will be donated to the Community Kitchen & Pantry of West Harlem. Families and children are welcome. Sunday, Jan. 16, from 1:45-3:15 p.m. at JCC Harlem. Register here.

UJA-Federation of NY and scholars from the Shalom Hartman Institute and Ammud: The Jews of Color Torah Academy present a free evening of virtual learning to honor Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy. Learn how traditional and modern teachings help inform the contemporary struggle for racial justice and universal belonging. Register here. Sunday, Jan. 16, 5:00-7:30 p.m.


What will 2022 bring in Jewish news? Join Philissa Cramer, editor of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency; Molly Tolsky of Alma and Kveller, and Andrew Silow-Carroll, editor in chief of the New York Jewish Week, for an online discussion about the year ahead. Jan. 18, 1:00 pm ET. Register to join the conversation here.

Join Nomi Stolzenberg and David Myers for a discussion of their new book — “American Shtetl: The Making of Kiryas Joel, a Hasidic Village in Upstate New” — the first to tell the detailed story of how a group of Yiddish-speaking, pious Jews created a vibrant world apart. Jan. 19, 6:00 p.m. Register here for this Jewish Week/ UJA-Federation event.

Photo, top: The JCC Manhattan’s Goldman-Sonnenfeldt Auditorium reopened in November 2021 after a year-long renovation, in anticipation of in-person events that have been stalled again by the omicron variant of COVID-19. (Courtesy MMJCCM)