September 15, 2017

Dear Friends:


It’s been many years since I wrote my High Holiday sermons well in advance. There is a somewhat common assumption in the world of rabbis that this is what we should be doing over the summer, that we should be crafting just the right message in just the right way. I was still a student rabbi when I realized that sermons written in July were not necessarily going to be relevant in September, unless we take a scholarly path exploring the themes in the liturgy, Torah and Haftarah portions, and traditions of the season. Perhaps some are craving just that kind of message this year. In a year of complexity and turmoil, maybe this is the year to keep it simple.


The opposite possibility is also true. In a time of complexity and turmoil, some of us are craving direction. I realize that my direction is only one way, but it might resonate with some. How do I help bring peace to myself and to the world around me? Where do I find healing and how do I help extend that healing to the world? How do I mend relationships that may have been strained over the past year because of the challenges domestically and internationally?


As I contemplate my message for the season, I’m also aware of the people I’ve hurt with remarks made in my sermons over the years. I am aware that sweeping generalizations have caused pain, as have some truths that perhaps could and should have been discussed in other forums and in other ways. As I write this in the immediate aftermath of the 16th anniversary of 9/11, I also recall the anger with which I lashed out at the holidays that year.


Here’s what I can say with certainty about entering the new year. First, I apologize. I know there are many who see this as the easy way out, asking for forgiveness in this way, but I do try to apologize when I know I’ve hurt someone. There are times when I just don’t know, though. I ask you to share with me ways in which my words and deeds have brought you pain, and I hope we can find a meeting of the minds and a place for reconciliation. Second, I wish you strength. There are challenges the world faces that demand our attention. We need to meet them with strength, courage, and vision. I wish for us a renewed sense of community at Shaarai Shomayim, built around an ongoing need for learning, for being present in each others lives, for meaningful prayer, and for ways we can pursue justice to help repair the world. Finally, I wish you peace. Whether you are wrestling with yourselves, family members or friends, or the circumstances of the world, I hope you can be restored to true shalom and shleymut—wholeness, health, and peace.


I hope to see many of you tonight and tomorrow night as we learn from various community leaders, and I trust I’ll see most of you for services on Rosh Ha-Shanah and Yom Kippur.


L’Shanah Tovah T’kateyvu. May you and those you love have a good year and be written for blessing in the Book of Life. Shabbat Shalom u’m’vorach. I wish you a Shabbat of peace and of blessing.




Jack P. Paskoff,


Week of September 15, 2017

This Week's 


Nitzavim - Vayeilech
Deuteronomy 29:9 - 30:20



You stand this day, all of you, before the Eternal your God--you tribal heads, you elders, and you officials, all of the men of Israel, you children, you women, even the stranger within your camp, from woodchopper to water drawer...




September 8, 2017

Dear Friends:

It may be hard to believe, but Rosh Ha-Shanah is only 11 days away! I am actively getting ready, not just to lead services, but by engaging in my cheshbon nefesh, my spiritual/behavioral audit of where I’ve been over the past year, and contemplating where I want the new year to bring me. We have some things coming up to help all of us get in the right frame of mind for the work that comes with observing these holidays. I hope you’ll avail yourselves of all or at least some of them.


This coming Monday, our Adult Jewish Growth program is called “But I didn’t do that one: How does the constant repetition of lists of sins speak to me?” and on 9/18, we’ll be looking at “But here’s what I hope to do this year: A Path to Character Building for the year to come.” Our sessions are held in the social hall from 7:30 to 9:00. Please enter through the glass doors on Duke Street. Invite friends from throughout the community to join us.

(Read More)

From the Rabbi




Welcome everyone!


Let me tell you a little about myself. I was raised in suburban New York where my family belonged to a Reform congregation. From the time I was in high school, I was headed toward becoming a rabbi. Along the way, I did a great deal of work in youth groups and Jewish camping, serving on the staff of our Reform movement camp in the Berkshires.

I graduated from Brandeis University, and then spent my first year of Rabbinical School in Jerusalem, before returning to the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, New York campus. I was an intern at Temple Judea of Manhasset, where I met Risa. We’ve been married since 1986.

I also served student congregations in Bradford, PA and Brooklyn, NY. After I was ordained in 1988, I became the associate rabbi at the Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple in New Brunswick, NJ. I spent 5 years there learning and growing and completed a unit of CPE (Clinical Pastorial Education) to hone my skills in dealing with illness and grief. My son, Ari, was born there in 1989.

After 5 years, it was time for me to move to a congregation of my own. We moved here to Lancaster in July of 1993, and have been here ever since. Our family grew with the birth of Gadi in 1994.

We are pleased to have grown along with our congregation, and I continue to try my best to reach out to our congregants and to the community at large, focusing my efforts on education for people of all ages and on Tikkun Olam (our efforts to repair the world). I am also especially proud of the music program we have developed at Shaarai Shomayim.

I enjoy getting to know our congregants, and would look forward to meeting people who are new to the congregation or community. Just give me a call (717-397-5575) or send me an e-mail.


Jack P. Paskoff


Tue, September 19 2017 28 Elul 5777