Ken and Flora Wilsker
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Volume 13 – May 2016
Shalom Havurim (friends),
We are writing this newsletter as we approach Pentecost. On the Jewish calendar, Pentecost or Shavuot does not happen until June 12 this year. This year, our feasts were separated by several weeks because this is a leap year in the Jewish calendar. The Jewish calendar is a lunar calendar, and every so often they add an entire month, which puts a large gap between the Jewish feasts and the feast days celebrated by the Roman Church.
During this time, the Church is reading the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. This is one of our favorite times of the year because we relive the lives of the first Hebrew Catholics. This was a time of great evangelization among the Jewish people. Then those first Hebrew Catholics took the Gospel to the Gentiles but not without some controversy. Guided by the Ruach haKodesh (Holy Spirit), those first Hebrew Catholics decided not to burden the Gentile Catholics with practicing the Torah and Jewish tradition. This allowed the Church to explode in numbers and spread around the world. The 1.1 billion Catholics today and countless numbers throughout the ages owe a great debt of gratitude to these first Hebrew Catholics for spreading the message of Yeshua to the entire world.
Too often, we hear how “the Jews” rejected Jesus, or we read in the Scriptures how the Jews disrupted and persecuted the first Christians and tried to discourage them from their faith. From some of the excerpts in the Acts of the Apostles that we read at Mass, it is easy to miss the whole story: that some “Jews” were believers. The
first thing we should do when we get home from Holy Mass is to read the entire passage so we have it all in context. Sometimes in the translations, we use the term “Jews” without distinction between the believing Jews and the non-believing Jews. For those who are already infected with an anti-Jewish attitude, these verses can encourage even more hatred and misunderstanding. How we wish that we could encourage our fellow parishioners to read the entire Scripture passage and to pull us aside to clarify. If more of our Catholic brethren would do this, we would see more appreciation for the way our first Hebrew Catholics spread with love and generosity the truth of the God of Israel and made Him available to all. If this happened with greater frequency, then there would be less hatred and anti-semitism and more love toward our Jewish people and toward Israel. The Church is now reaching a point in history that is unprecedented in the level of teaching on the Jewish roots of our faith. When we reach a critical mass of interest and understanding, then the non-believing Jewish population will turn toward God, and the veil would be lifted so they, too, can see and fall in love with their Messiah, Jesus! (CCC 674) May this be our prayer this Pentecost and Shavuot!
On a personal note, Ken’s strength continues to improve, and he is back to a more normal work schedule. Our family has been blessed with another beautiful grandchild in April named Fiona Rey! What a treasure and joy! We also had the chance to visit Louisville, Kentucky and lead a Passover Seder in the Light of Christ for the Havurah, “Miriam, Our Lady of the Miracle.” There were about 45 attendees, and we used the Haggadah published by the AHC. Ken shared a bit of his faith journey, and since we held it on a Friday night during Lent, we had fish as our main dish. You know you are a Hebrew Catholic when…you eat fish for the Seder on Friday night during Lent!
Please continue to keep us in your prayers. Pray specifically for continued healing. Also for wisdom, strength, and courage to live in His will and do the work for which He led us to St. Louis. Thanks in advance. We have in our prayers all of you around the world. We find it true joy to hear how each one of you is led in different ways to reach one another with God’s love! We hope to be in touch more often as God inspires us to write these newsletters, BUT WE LOVE HEARING FROM YOU AS WELL!
Shalom in Yeshua (Jesus) and Miriam (Mary),
Ken and Flora Wilsker
Havurot as Community (continued)
by Ken Wilsker
Now for the conclusion of the article that was started in volume 12. In that article, I mentioned how easy it is start a havurah, as long as the Holy Spirit opens the doors. We have all the materials and experience at the AHC to help anyone to start and develop a havurah group. I mentioned one way to kick-start a group would be to implement a Passover Seder in the Light of Christ. But now that we are past this season, I would like to propose a new idea, a one-day AHC conference. Back in 2010, the AHC hosted a weekend conference in St. Louis. Flora and I were there, and it was a blessed weekend. However, the task of organizing a weekend and the financial commitment it takes can be daunting. David Moss has been floating an idea whose time we believe has come. David Moss, Larry Feingold, and I (and possibly other Hebrew Catholic leaders) would be willing to travel to speak to your group. Lunch could be provided, and a small fee would be charged to cover the lunch, travel, and one-night-only hotel expenses for the speakers.
The AHC is developing a brochure that will outline how to organize a one-day conference. We could attract many more people who would be willing to give up a morning and part of an afternoon to be inspired and strengthened in the Catholic faith by studying their Jewish roots. We could even invite folks who are actively considering the Catholic faith, both Jew and Gentile. Afterward, this would be a great way to build an enthusiastic core group that could be the start of a havurah. If a havurah already exists, then it’s a perfect way to energize and add to the numbers.
Once the havurah is started, the AHC has all the resources and the experience to help build and sustain a vital group, plus Flora and I are available as “consultants” to assist. In St. Louis, the havurah meets twice a month on Friday nights, and the evening revolves around a shared meal. We all bring a dish to share. As important as study and prayer are to the group, we should not underestimate the value of a meal. Our Lord often was concerned with feeding crowds of people (see John 21:15-17). The crowds came to be fed by Yeshua’s words and miracles but also the real food that he provided. The meal was and remains a vital part of building community. If a full meal is not possible then be sure to provide some “noshies” (snacks) as part of the evening of prayer and study. The havurah that eats together stays together!
Beyond the meal, it is important to celebrate the Jewish holidays in the light of Christ together. The major holidays are a great place to start. Passover and Shavuot (Pentocost) in the spring. Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot in the fall. Hanukah in the winter. Then you can begin to add in Purim and Yom Hashoah, the Day of Remembrance of the Holocaust, etc. The AHC website has some very simple liturgies that can be used for the celebrations in the havurah and also in our families. Be sure to take advantage of all the resources available; there is no reason to have to reinvent the wheel unless you are so inclined to be creative. Please feel free to reach out to us for ideas, encouragement, and prayer.
Beyond these celebrations and the regular meetings, it is important to keep each other in our daily prayers and to reach out by phone and email to each other. We need continual encouragement in our walk of faith. Of course, we are all connected in some way to a parish, and our havurah is a perfect way to connect more intensely with other believers who love their Catholic faith, Jewish roots, the Jewish people, and Israel. In this way, we become joined together in our Messiah’s love, and we become “community.”
News from the Diaspora
Thanks again for all of you who sent in news from around the diaspora this issue. Let’s remember to keep each other in our daily prayers. You are all in our prayers.
Please let us know if you have any specific prayer requests. Flora, especially, spends many hours a day in prayer for the AHC, all the havurot, and for all Hebrew Catholic leaders around the world.
From the Light to the Nations Havurah, Houston, TX
Our havurah will hopefully resume this summer, or at the latest this
fall. Although we’ve been on a hiatus, I’m happy to report that our men’s ACTS book club read a very inspirational book this spring: “Wisdom for Living” by Rabbis Nechemiah and Yitzchak Coopersmith. The rabbis compiled various reflections that Rabbi Noach Weinberg made on several parashas. Each chapter is a reflection on a parasha.
We read approximately five chapters a week and finished the book in approximately three months. Although the book’s message is primarily aimed at the Jewish people, I couldn’t get over how Catholic most of the content sounds. There are several chapters that come to mind that reflect our Christian spirituality. One in particular is “Parashas Tetzaveh: The Soul of Incense.” The chapter explains that even without the altar specified in the parasha, one can still burn incense symbolically. The chapter indicates that the way to do this is by giving up our sense of self-importance. The chapter further notes that humility is key in enabling one to do
this. Another chapter is “Parashas Vayeira: Building Through
Kindness.” The chapter interprets the instance when Abraham was in the presence of God but had to step out and quickly tend to the three men outside his tent. The chapter explains that Abraham had to do this because welcoming guests is greater than experiencing God’s Divine Presence. However, the chapter clarifies this reasoning: “the most powerful way to understand and connect to Hashem is by becoming like him.” The chapter further specifies this concept by noting that performing chessed (loving kindness) is one of the essential ways to do this.
The book contains more chapters which I believe complement our Christian spirituality. I remember telling the guys in the group that if you substitute the word “Catholic” where the word “Jew” or “Jewish” is, the book makes even more sense. I based this reasoning on Christianity being the fulfillment of Judaism. All in all, the book facilitated engaging discussions, and I believe it allowed us to grow in wisdom, as the title
suggests. I’ll see if some of the guys in the group can share their thoughts on the book as well. If other havurim are looking for a book to read, this is a good choice.
From Ann-Marie and Mark Longanecker, Claremont, CA
i just wanted to tell you about how we were called upon to participate in our parish’s Jerusalem Marketplace Event held on April 3rd.
It was a lot of fun for all the children and parents in the Faith Formation program. Tents were set up out on the parish green with activities for the children to visit and try out– crafts, clay, bread-baking, beads, and also a petting zoo with goats, chickens, and ducks. There was also a play about Jesus and the Resurrection, and all the “cast” were in costume from First Century Jerusalem. The children were free to visit and explore all of the tents and try all of the crafts and activities. Our booth was the “Synagogue School” where the children received a mini-exposure to synagogue education. The kids came in, washed their hands, and quickly donned scarves and kippot. Seated on the carpet, they were taught quickly about “What is Torah?” and were able to see a Torah scroll up close. Then they were taught to repeat their Alef-Beit. Following this, they learned to sing the Shema, and we ended with “Rabbi Mark” saying a Blessing over the children with the adults and parents holding Tallits overhead. It was a great experience, and we hope to do it again next year! Some kids enjoyed it so much that they visited our tent twice.
I hope you can use this story! Attached are some photos!
Ann-Marie and Mark Longanecker
Our Lady of the Assumption, Claremont, California
Dear Ken and Flora,
Hope all is well. We are finally getting Spring in Minnesota.
Our Havurah is doing well. We are continuing to read Jewish Identity but have added watching a half hour of the DVD series, The Story of the Jews with Simon Schama, at each meeting. We have found that Jewish Identity is not light reading, and the DVD helps complement what we are reading. We are taking the book is smaller portions so we get a better understanding.
There is also some interest by others, and we may add a few more people.
Blessings and Happy Passover!
From the Miriam, Our Lady of the Miracle Havurah, Louisville KY
In March, we celebrated a very beautiful and prayerful Passover Seder in the Light of Christ in Louisville at St. Louis Bertrand Catholic Church. The group is coordinated by Deacon Franco and Ellie Cottrell. It was held on a Friday night during Lent, so we had a wonderful fish dinner with all the trimmings. There were about 45 attendees. We followed the Haggadah published by the AHC. Ken and Flora Wilsker traveled from St. Louis to lead the Seder. Ken shared his faith journey during dinner. It was a wonderful reunion for so many of us. Hopefully this event will re-energize the group to be able to meet again on a regular basis.
From the Miriam, the Joy of Israel Havurah, Burnt Hills NY
Joanie Bellmer tells us that she is now up to 39 members of her havurah. This is a group that meets via phone and mail once a month. We affectionately call this a “missionary havurah.” Joanie is able to coordinate and shepherd a very diverse group from all over the world. She is able to instruct them in the Jewish roots of Catholicism and is a continual encouragement to each of the members. Joanie also is involved in the local Jewish community, helping in many community service projects, and she has been able to build bridges of love and trust between the Jewish and Catholic communities. Let’s keep this havurah in all of our prayers.
From the St. Edith Stein Havurah, St. Louis MO
Having finished the enjoyable DVD Series, Footprints of God, by Steve Ray, we are now reading through Brant Pitre’s latest book, The Case for Jesus.
On March 19, the Feast of St. Joseph, we celebrated the Passover Seder in the light of Christ, with each person taking a turn reading a portion of the AHC Haggadah around the table. Each person or couple brought a potluck dish to share, with some traditional Passover dishes, and some family favorites. It was a relaxing evening with wonderful conversation around the table during dinner.
We are looking forward to having David’s youngest sister, Susan Moss, join our havurah soon. Ken & Flora and David & Kathleen all traveled to LaCrosse, Wisconsin to celebrate Susan’s entry into the Catholic Church on Holy Saturday at St. Joseph the Workman Cathedral. It was a very joyful celebration! Bishop William P. Callahan, celebrant, congratulates Susan afterward.
Susan spent many years in the Lutheran tradition and has much experience in the Stephen Ministry, in counseling, and as a Deaconess. She plans to move to St. Louis in the near future. Welcome home, Susan!
On February 4, Matthew and Lindsay Moss had a daughter, Rifka Cecilia. Now, our friends in the parish community, havurah, and in the family have another reason to rejoice! Rifka was baptized on March 19, Feast of St. Joseph.