Your Jewish Journey Starts Here.

President Jeffrey K. Actor's blog

Plasticity of Jewish Law

The plasticity in application of Jewish law to our changing world was on display in Houston last month. Prizmah, a national organization for Jewish Day Schools, held a Shabbaton where teens representing over 25 schools across the United States came together to celebrate Jewish learning.

Sabbatical Announcement

The ability to rejuvenate the land is written into our Torah, as a practical guide to give our fields a much needed rest from constant activity. The laws of “shmittah” dictate we give our fields that rest every seven years - a sabbatical - as a way to recharge the land. Although it is tough to let the land lie fallow, it clearly benefits crop growth and harvest yields in future years.

An Open Letter to All Congregants

My family and I have lived in Houston for almost 20 years. I have been quite fortunate in my life to visit synagogues, quite literally, all around the globe. Everyone one of them offers a unique opportunity to pray with those who share similar Judaic beliefs and values. But, I have to admit, there is no place like home - like our Congregation Brith Shalom.

A Quiet Moment, A Cherished Gift

A quiet moment alone can sometimes be a cherished gift. I had the opportunity to sit late one night after a meeting in our synagogue's front foyer. Just me, alone with my thoughts after a meeting, jotting down random ideas and non-sequitur items to complete later in the week. It was a time to reflect before locking the building.

Second Report on the Interim Plan and Annual Meeting

Congregation Brith Shalom members, at a duly recognized Special Meeting on March 30, 2015, agreed to a period not exceeding 20 months (through November 2016) to implement the Interim Plan for a new staffing and program model as adopted by the Board of Trustees. Directions stemming from that decision dictated that if by November 2016 (or at a future time), the Board determines or acts not to seek to engage a full time Cantor, a Special Meeting will be called to ask the Congregation whether it approves that Board action. Without such approval, a search for a full-time Cantor must start by November 2016.

An Unexpected Flood

Last week, the unexpected happened. A rainy Sunday evening turned into a life-changing event where flooding of epic proportions took Houston, quite literally, by storm. This week's blog is just one small step to let those in need know that Congregation Brith Shalom is here to support those affected by the flood.

Just Do It – Become a Benefactor

This year, Lori and I became Benefactors of Congregation Brith Shalom. We didn’t do it because it was financially easy, but because it was time, and it was the right thing to do. Brith Shalom has done so much for us that it was easy to make the decision to move up a notch. Sure, our twins are still in college, we have mortgage payments and a car note, and constant repairs to make on the house. We simply recognized that there would always be an excuse; but we made it a priority to give more. So we just did it. It was our way of saying, “Thank you,” to Brith Shalom for standing with our family in past and future times when we needed a spiritual hand.

The Sum of All Parts

Last spring, our board undertook a bold plan to create more pathways for membership relationship and engagement, and to restructure the roles of our clergy to provide improved ways to meet the spiritual goals and needs of our congregants. I thought to share just a few of the many activities representing our growth towards our goals.

Diversity, Tolerance, and Veterans

We often take for granted that America was built on the hopes and dreams of people wishing for a better life for themselves and their families. Many of our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents came to these shores fleeing persecution in their native lands. As Jews, we must always remember our heritage, and keep in mind the opportunities the United States including freedom of religious practice under the umbrella of the First Amendment to our Constitution.

Update: Evaluation of the Interim Plan

Last spring, the congregation met in a special meeting to discuss the “interim plan” as recommended by Rabbi Teller and the Board of Directors. The plan, designed in Rabbi Teller’s words, is to “create a place of deep, genuine, and soulful engagement” through improved lifecyle connections and dynamic, participatory worship. The plan itself involves multiple facets, which are outlined in the original document presented to the board in the Fall of 2014 by Rabbi Teller (see Rabbi Teller’s Summary). The plan also includes changes in staffing for the synagogue (see Staffing for the Interim Plan), as decided by the Board of Trustees prior to implementation.

Solidarity and Respect for All

This past Shabbat (6/27/15) CBS joined the broader community in reaffirmation of core Jewish values aimed at the sanctity of life, regardless of race, creed or gender.  Two specific events were of special note. The first was one where we publically engaged in a Shabbat of Solidarity with the African-American community to honor those lives lost in the recent horrific violence which occurred in Charleston, South Carolina. Rabbis, congregations, and Jewish organizations across the United States were encouraged to reject hateful extremism.

Exciting Education at CBS

If you give a person a fish, they eat for a day. If you teach them to fish, you give them opportunity to help themselves and feed their family. If you further their skills so that they now become educators, they become the teachers for tomorrow’s children with the ability to transform a community.


Congregation Brith Shalom is moving forward! We are trying new ideas, and generating an excitement about ways to enhance spiritual growth. Luckily, we have a Board of Trustees committed to success. One reason for this success is a quiet but effective echanism in place for leadership development. This allows a succession of individuals to learn committee structure so that we can implement existing programs, develop new ideas, and flourish when challenges arise.

Goal for New Administration

Let me begin by thanking everyone for their mazel tovs and good wishes, and for putting your trust into our newly elected board of trustees to guide CBS to success as we travel along our Jewish journey. We are indeed a “sacred and compassionate community”, and I am confident that CBS will reach new heights in multiple arenas over the next few years.

New President, New Blog!

According to Wikipedia (where else would I look it up?) a blog (a contraction of the words web and log) is a discussion or informational site published on the World Wide Web and consisting of discrete entries ("posts") typically displayed in reverse chronological order (the most recent post appears first). If you’re reading this, you probably already know that, or you are an older friend or relative of mine who is just interested in seeing what I might have to say.  

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