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Don's 5780 (2019) Kol Nidre Speech

10/09/2019 12:00:07 AM



Good evening, and welcome to the Shul of New York.

First, I must thank Angel Orensanz for once again hosting us in the magnificently beautiful Angel Orensanz Foundation. It has always been very meaningful to all of us that we are keeping this building’s history as a synagogue alive by celebrating the High Holidays here. Thank you, again Angel, for providing us with this opportunity and honor.

I must also thank Rabbi Eva Sax-Bolder for another year of inspiration and her commitment to building the Shul community through learning and love. We thank Rabbi Eva for helping us to apply the Shul’s values and mission to our community, our city, our country, and our world. We are indeed fortunate to have you as our Rabbi.

And we continue to be amazed, and exhausted, trying to keep up as you create exciting new programs for the Shul every year.

Next, I welcome the Shul’s founder and Rabbi Emeritus, Burt Aaron Siegel. Despite ongoing health issues, Rabbi Burt stood right here and sang at the Band Together in Love Concert. He truly is our Iron Rabbi.

We are very happy that Rabbi Burt is still going strong especially this year as he celebrates two milestones: This is Rabbi Burt’s 50th year as a rabbi, and tomorrow he will celebrate his 80th birthday. Rumor has it that you decided to be a Rabbi 74 years ago. Although, I have heard a story that places that fateful day a bit sooner. It happened in the hospital on the day you were born. It seems that when the doctor slapped your little tuchus, you turned to him and said, “Hey, watch it buddy, I’m a Rabbi!” And for those of you keeping score, that was the first time I mentioned a Rabbi’s tuchus in a Kol Nidre Appeal.

Before I begin, there is another person I must recognize: Vera Hearn, a long time Board member, a former Co-President and a founding member of the Shul.

After many years of service to the Shul, Vera has decided to cycle off the Board, while juggling 3 chocolate babkas.

As a former Co-President, Vera will join the ranks of Emeritus Board Members and we congratulate her on that dubious achievement. We thank Vera for her years of diligent service to the Shul, and we will miss her at our Board meetings.

And, I cannot begin, without recognizing the enormous contribution to the Shul of our Director of Music and Development, Adam Feder. And, of course, the contribution of the amazingly talented Shul Band.

At our services, our annual concert, and the High Holidays, Adam sends his music directly into our hearts.

Kind of like the mayonnaise on a spiritual BLT, only much more delicious.

I must thank Adam and the Shul Band for their ridiculously tireless efforts that brought us the Band Together in Love Concert, which this year was built around the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s album. They put the fun in fundraising, and we cannot fully express our gratitude to them for our most exciting and successful fundraising event ever.

At the concert bar, we served a delicious punch donated by the Band. I’m not quite sure what was in it, but I do vaguely recall having an engaging conversation with a young woman named Lucy. Something about diamonds in the sky, I think.

And, before I begin, I must make note of our great fortune in once again having the virtuoso violins of the Villalobos Brothers.

Despite current events, and luckily for us, they are in no danger of being deported. This did not stop my wife from volunteering to marry any, or all, of the brothers who might need to suddenly obtain citizenship. When informed that this was not a problem, she selflessly replied, “Better safe than sorry!” All I can add is, “Vaya con dios, mis amigos!”

And, I now officially speak enough Spanish to participate in a Democratic debate.

As many of you are aware, fundraising remains an ongoing concern for the Shul. But fear not, the newly formed Fundraising Committee has hit the ground running.

Presciently realizing that there may be a connection between Jews and food, and building on the success of the Shul Family Cookbook, they have decided that the Shul of New York will enter the restaurant business.

The first Shul of New York restaurant called, Eat Something Already, will present an artisanal, curated, eclectic Jewish cuisine featuring such nouveau offerings as:  kishkes stuffed with vegetarian pork belly, kung pao kreplach, truffle infused calamari blintzes, matzah ball row in a Coney Island sea foam, and the chef’s pride and joy, a kosher pickle lovingly prepared sous vide, served in a Manischewitz schmaltz reduction.

Looking forward, the Committee also has plans for theme restaurants. The first is My Bubbe’s Kitchen, where the temperature is always 78 degrees, the waitresses all carry sweaters so you don’t catch a chill, and where we know you will go home satisfied because you can’t leave until you’ve eaten 2 dinners, because at My Bubbe’s Kitchen, we know that fakakta shiksa doesn’t feed you.

And lastly, Uncle Mohel’s Pizzeria. Remember, at Uncle Mohel’s Pizza, we sweat over every slice.

On a more serious note, I do have some sad news for those of you who do not follow me on twitter. It is with profound sorrow that I must report that your favorite Co-President, me, is no longer a Co-President of the Shul. I know, so sad! This treacherous treason was perpetrated by my many enemies lurking in the depths of the Deep Board, who, utilizing an unending stream of invective and fake news, drove me from office. So unfair!

What a sad, sad story this is. Despite the rumors of my collusion with a Shul in Brighton Beach, I am proud to report that after a very extensive, tremendous hoax and witch hunt, and despite the 400 pages of evidence compiled by the very biased investigators, so biased, I was completely and utterly exonerated.

This is why at the next Board election I received millions of votes, more votes than have ever been cast in a very rigged Shul Board election, ever, in the history of mankind, and I was re-elected to the office of Covfefe-President.

Nevertheless, after a mountain of false charges, based solely and so unfairly on my behavior in office, I was unceremoniously impeached. My replacement as Co-President is that well-known nasty woman, so nasty, Karen “Benedict Arnold” Seidman.

My name is Don Brancaccio. I am the Webmaster and a former Co-President of the Shul of New York. I am also now Shul Treasurer, replacing my wife, Joan. I promise to take this new responsibility very seriously by only golfing 5 days a week at my tremendous Matzo Lago Resort in Boca Raton.

As always, if you love the website, I would love to hear from you at webmaster @ Usually, at this point, I say that if you have a complaint about the website or the Shul or anything else, you should email my Co-President, Sara Lavner at Sara, s-a-r-a @ But I’m not a Co-President any more, so if you have a complaint, oh well.

Once again, welcome to the Shul of New York. The Shul of Music, the Shul of Love, the Shul where everyone from A to Z, Atheists to Zoroastrians, are always welcome. For those of you who don’t know me, I am not Jewish (the name Brancaccio may have been a hint). I am also, well, let’s just say I am not Zoroastrian, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

So, I stand before you, once again, the non-Jewish, non-Zoroastrian, atheist, Treasurer of the Shul of New York here to deliver the Kol Nidre Appeal for 5780.

I thought tonight I would speak just a bit about something that has been impossible to ignore; something we know passed through your minds as your bags were searched when you arrived.

We have all been suffering through the news of the rise in anti-Semitism in our country and around the world. An increase that has resulted in terrible tragedy more than once. The police tell us that acts based on anti-Semitism traditionally go down during the High Holidays, although sadly, but not surprisingly, that may not be true this year.

I know I cannot feel the pain of anti-Semitism exactly as you feel it, but I do feel it viscerally nonetheless. I feel it for my wife, for my children, for my friends and for this Shul. And also, like you, I feel it for my country.

It is often difficult to avoid the feeling that we are living through a dark time. Seemingly every day, there is another reason to fear for the future. We see the debasement of the public sphere. We hear it become acceptable to publicly make anti-Semitic remarks. It is easy to wonder where our mutual respect for dignity, honesty, morality and love has gone. To wonder, how much worse can this all get?

It is even more difficult to avoid casting blame and responsibility onto large groups of people we do not know. We are subjected on a daily basis to prominent voices, sometimes echoed by our neighbors, voices that reek of vulgarity, dishonesty, pettiness, venality, and an almost bottomless contempt for the democratic values and principles that made coming to this country a dream for our immigrant forbearers. It can easily lead us to anxiety, depression, fear and worst of all, hate.

We have no choice but to rise above this. We cannot survive if we give in to fear and hate. We must cling to each other and to those things in our lives that bring us solace, that remind us of who we are, that remind us of what we value, that reinforce our belief in all that is good and just and right in this world.

We must remember that hatred is not the opposite of love. Hatred is the destroyer of love. And only love can stand against hate.

Ok, that sounds a little new-agey, but you probably know me well enough by now to know that I don’t believe that love, or anything else, is magical. I really do believe that love can destroy hate, but it’s not magic. We cannot repair our world by wishing it were better, and we will not create a better world by dreaming it into existence. We can only do that by living our values.

We must be involved, we must take action, we must do….something. It doesn’t matter if it’s charity or politics or volunteerism, what matters is that we act according to our values. To the extent that we embrace those things that embody our values, that we create a place, a community where we can work with like-minded people, our task grows easier.

Everyone connected to the Shul works every day to make this possible, to make the Shul of New York your special place.

A place where we can bear witness to the values that we share: inclusivity and acceptance, compassion and love, and a belief in the inherent dignity of every person no matter what they look like, no matter where they come from, no matter what they believe, and no matter who they love.

And we will continue working to insure that this Shul will always be a source of solace and strength for you: the place where you feel safe, the place where you feel accepted, the place where you know you are part of our Shul of New York Family.

And, it’s the place where once a year, I stand up to ask for money.

The Rabbi, the Board, the Auxiliary, and all our volunteers work tirelessly to make this Shul a thriving community, blah, blah, blah, yada, yada, yada. Oh come on, you must be at least a little bit tired of hearing me say this every year. The good news, though, is that I just won $20 because my wife bet I wouldn’t say that.

Honestly though, no matter how hard we all work, the real reason we are here, year after year, is you. It is your kindness and your generosity that quite literally make this Shul possible despite the fact we have no minimum membership dues. The commitment to a Shul that is open to everyone regardless of financial situation, while being one of our greatest strengths, puts us in a unique position. 

The position we are in is that this Shul’s greatest asset is you. You decide every year if we survive, if we thrive, you decide if we will be here together next year.

We rely on you and every year you come through for the Shul. Your support makes it all worthwhile for us. It even lessens the sting that no matter how many times I suggest holding Board meetings in Hawaii, they keep saying no. Oh, wait, I’m Treasurer now, oh the possibilities!

You keep us going; you insure that this Shul remains a place where joyful acceptance of our differences is the norm. And we cannot fully express in mere words our appreciation for every single donation. Maybe next year I’ll do an interpretative dance.

You may donate online but we strive to make your lives easy. In just a moment, the hardest working Shul volunteers on the planet will come around with their collection bags and their patent pending looks of pathetic desperation. Please be generous.

We gratefully accept cash, checks, credit cards, jewelry, car keys, and CBD vaping cartridges. Really, we’ll take anything. And starting this year, for a donation of just $10,000 we will initiate a corruption investigation into the person of your choice, even if they’ve never worked in Ukraine.

Thank you for listening. Thank you in advance for your kindness and your generosity. And thank you for being a part of the Shul of New York Family. Thank you. 

Donate to the High Holiday Appeal


Fri, May 29 2020 6 Sivan 5780