Meditations on Repentance


For our cover story this week, we focus on Yom Kippur and the meaning of repentance and atonement in different parts of our community.

Connor Graham spoke to Jewish people in recovery about the parallels between the principles of 12-step programs and Yom Kippur, both of which are focused on making amends — albeit in different ways. One Jewish Community Services counselor cited parallels between the recovery process and the words of Maimonides, while also noting the daily supplicatory prayers that ask for God’s forgiveness.

Susan C. Ingram spoke to two rabbis and a social worker about the concept of repentance and forgiveness, and how people can genuinely engage in both during the holiday. As you’ll read, they told Susan that the effort must be heartfelt, and requires meaningful introspection and personal honesty.

Jesse Bernstein wrote about how Jews behind bars take part in High Holiday observance. While their religious resources are obviously limited, incarcerated Jews can remain observant through organizations such as the Aleph Institute and Jewish Prisoner Services International, whose representatives spoke with us about their nationwide work and how they help prisoners during the High Holiday season.

In other news, we spoke to former Temple Oheb Shalom Rabbi Steven Fink about the allegations against him, which have resulted in his being suspended from the rabbinate. Fink’s wife Sally also spoke with the JT about her dismissal from her job at the temple. We also report on the dozens of congregants who have rallied to the couple’s defense, and we spoke with one of those congregants (now a former congregant) — who believes that the treatment of Fink has been unjust.

On a lighter note, I had one of those interviews I’ll likely never forget: I spoke with Paul Stanley, the legendary frontman of KISS, a band I first saw perform while I was in middle school. Stanley is a prolific artist, and he’ll be in the Washington, D.C., area this weekend showing and selling his art. In addition to talking about his art, we spoke about Stanley’s Jewish heritage, his mother’s flight from Europe to the United States and about passing the lessons of the Holocaust on to his children.

Happy reading, and g’mar chatima tova.

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