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Chatting with Rabbi Mike

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Rabbi Michael E. Harvey of the Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas, was ordained by the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in 2015. He earned a Master’s degree in Hebrew Letters from Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion & a Bachelor’s degree in psychology from Boston University. Throughout his tenure at HUC-JIR, Rabbi Harvey served congregations, small & large, in Arkansas, Missouri, Ohio, Alabama, Mississippi, & Texas.

Certified as a Prepare & Enrich marital & pre-marital counselor, Rabbi Harvey served as a chaplain at both Norton Hospital & Kosair Children’s Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky. He is committed to interfaith education & social justice, locally & nationally. His dedication to both these areas can be seen in the work he has done with The Center for Holocaust & Humanity Education, the American Jewish World Service, The Ecumenical Institute at Bossey, & The Chautauqua Institution.

Rabbi Harvey sits as a board member for the United Way of the Virgin Islands, Salvation Army Advisory Board, Catholic Charities of the Virgin Islands, Advisory Board of the UVI Center for the Study of Spirituality & Professionalism, & Downtown Revitalization Faith Group. He also serves on the Development Committee for the Family Resource Center & is the founder & president of the newly formed Interfaith Council of the Caribbean. Plus, he proudly serves as a member of The Rotary Club of St. Thomas Sunrise, as part of Rotary International.

Additionally, he is a member of the rabbinic advisory council for the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, “The B’nai Ya’akov Council.” Rabbi Harvey lives happily in St. Thomas with his wife, Barrie, and his son, Asher.
14 Episodes
Counting of the Omer (Hebrew: Sefirat HaOmer, sometimes abbreviated as Sefira or the Omer) is an important verbal counting of each of the forty-nine days between the Jewish holidays of Passover and Shavuot as stated in the Hebrew Bible: Leviticus 23:15–16. This mitzvah ("commandment") derives from the Torah commandment to count forty-nine days beginning from the day on which the Omer, a sacrifice containing an omer-measure of barley, was offered in the Temple in Jerusalem, up until the day before an offering of wheat was brought to the Temple on Shavuot. The Counting of the Omer begins on the second day of Passover (the 16th of Nisan) for Rabbinic Jews (Orthodox, Conservative, Reform), and after the weekly Shabbat during Passover for Karaite Jews, and ends the day before the holiday of Shavuot, the 'fiftieth day.' The idea of counting each day represents spiritual preparation and anticipation for the giving of the Torah which was given by God on Mount Sinai at the beginning of the month of Sivan, around the same time as the holiday of Shavuot. The Sefer HaChinuch (published anonymously in 13th century Spain) states that the Hebrew people were only freed from Egypt at Passover in order to receive the Torah at Sinai, an event which is now celebrated on Shavuot, and to fulfill its laws. Thus, the Counting of the Omer demonstrates how much a Hebrew desires to accept the Torah in his own life.  ~ Courtesy of
Many Jewish Americans in the US remember Israel’s Independence Day, also known as Yom Ha’Atzmaut (or Yom HaAtzmaut). Celebrations are annually held on or around the 5th day of the month of Iyar, according to the Jewish calendar. Many Jewish organizations, including community centers, university student groups, & some schools, organize events to celebrate Yom Ha’Atzmaut. Many of these events are open to the general public and include entertainment such as: Kosher pizza dinners, Singing, music & dance performances, Face painting, Flag-making activities, Barbecues, Special rides, including camel rides. Some Jewish communities also celebrate Israel’s Independence Day with benefit concerts featuring bands from Israel, & local bands. A variety of music is usually offered, ranging from traditional music with a rock twist to modern music from Israel. Various art & craft activities for children & young teenagers are also incorporated into events that celebrate Yom Ha’Atzmaut, which is not a federal public holiday in the United States. Yom Ha’Atzmaut commemorates when David Ben-Gurion, who was Israel’s first prime minister, publicly read the Israel’s Declaration of Independence on May 14, 1948. According to the Jewish calendar, this was the 5th day of Iyar, the 8th month of the civil year, in the year 5708. The most prominent symbol seen at events that celebrate Yom Ha’Atzmaut is Israel’s flag. This is a white rectangle in the ratio 11:8 with 2 horizontal blue stripes, one at the top and one at the bottom. A regular hexagram, known as the Star of David, or Megan David, is depicted in blue between the stripes. Courtesy of
What is Passover? Passover is a festival of freedom that commemorates the Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt, & their transition from slavery to freedom. The main ritual of Passover is the seder, which occurs on the first 2 night of the holiday. It's a festive meal that involves the re-telling of the Exodus through stories & song & the consumption of ritual foods, including matzah & maror (bitter herbs). The seder’s rituals & other readings are outlined in the Haggadah. What are some Passover practices? The central Passover practice is a set of intense dietary changes, mainly the absence of hametz, or foods with leaven. (Ashkenazi Jews also avoid kitniyot, a category of food that includes legumes.) In recent years, many Jews have compensated for the lack of grain by cooking with quinoa, although not all recognize it as kosher for Passover. The ecstatic cycle of psalms called Hallel is recited both at night & day (during the seder & morning prayers). Additionally, Passover commences a 49-day period called the Omer, which recalls the count between offerings brought to the ancient Temple in Jerusalem. This count culminates in the holiday of Shavuot, the anniversary of the receiving of the Torah at Sinai. What foods do we eat on Passover? Matzah, or unleavened bread, is the main food of Passover. You can purchase it in stores, or make your own. But the holiday has many traditional, popular foods, from haroset (a mixture of fruit, nuts, wine, & cinnamon) to matzah ball soup & the absence of leavening calls upon a cook to employ all of his/her culinary creativity. View an extensive collection of Passover recipes at:
Most subsequent Jewish ethical claims may be traced back to the texts, themes, and teachings of the written Torah. In early rabbinic Judaism, the oral Torah both interpreted the Hebrew Bible and engaged in novel topics. Ethics is a key aspect of this legal literature, known as the literature of halakhah. Jewish ethics is the moral philosophy particular to one or both of the Jewish religion and peoples. Serving as a convergence of Judaism and the Western philosophical tradition of ethics, the diverse literature of Jewish ethics' broad range of moral concern classifies it as a type of normative ethics. For two millennia, Jewish thought has focused on the interplay of ethics with the rule of law. The tradition of rabbinic religious law - Halakhah - addresses several problems associated with ethics, including its semi-permeable relation with duties that are usually not punished under the law. Jewish ethics may be said to originate with the Hebrew Bible, its broad legal injunctions, advisory narratives, and prophecies.  The best known rabbinic text associated with ethics is the non-legal Mishnah tractate of Avot (“forefathers”), commonly translated as “Ethics of the Fathers”. Similar ethical teachings are found throughout more legally oriented portions of the Mishnah, Talmud, and other rabbinic literature. Generally, ethics is a key aspect of non-legal rabbinic literature, known as aggadah. This early Rabbinic ethics shows signs of ideological and polemical exchange with the Greek (Western philosophical) ethical tradition. ~ Courtesy of
A series of coordinated bomb threats at Jewish Community Centers (JCCs) across the United States have threatened children, many of them preschoolers, and their parents, causing repeated evacuations and creating a sense of anxiety some are finding hard to shake. The FBI is investigating at least 54 bomb threats at JCCs in 27 states, with 11 new threats called in Monday, February 6th. Over the weekend, gravesites at a Jewish cemetery in University City, Missouri, were vandalized. One JCC in Birmingham, Alabama, has been forced to evacuate its school and preschool twice in the past month. "If the intention was to scare us, these bomb threats have failed," David Posner of the Jewish Community Center Association told NBC News. Some parents, however, are certainly shaken by the continued threatened violence against their children. The threats started January 9, when the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) reported 16 JCCs in the Northeast and Southeast received recorded messages threatening them with bombs. A second round occurred at 30 JCCs across 17 states on January 18. On January 31, at least 13 more threats were called in — this time individually, by a woman. None of the bomb threats were deemed credible. Though they were not credible, the threats themselves were chilling for anyone, especially a parent, to hear. "In a short time, a large number of Jews are going to be slaughtered," a woman states in a recording from a January 18 threat.  But some parents and JCC administrators are urging others not to let fear keep them from returning to their JCCs. Samantha Taylor, a mother of three near Orlando, Florida, has a three-year-old daughter who attends preschool at the Roth Family Jewish Community Center of Greater Orlando, which has received three bomb threats in just over two weeks. Taylor, a board member at the JCC, was on campus for the first one.
As Trump bars refugees & Muslim immigrants from coming to this country, it’s worth remembering the Jews who were shut out the last time we closed our borders—like Jared Kushner’s grandmother. By Lizzy Ratner, a Senior Editor at Oszcar Ratowzer, also known as Osher, was my grandfather. The manifest lists him as being 16, but my family believes he was closer to 19 or 20 when he boarded the Aquitania in Southampton, England, on Oct. 23, 1920, & began his 3rd-class voyage across the Atlantic. The journey took 7 days, finally depositing ? him at Ellis Island, America’s “Golden Door,” the gateway to a world without pogroms or hunger or the horror of world war. There, he would almost certainly have been met by an assembly line of doctors & inspectors, who would have poked & peered at him, pried & questioned until, content with what they’d found, they would send him on his way with a landing card & a new identity: Harry Ratner. A pogrom is a violent riot aimed at the massacre or persecution of an ethnic or religious group, particularly one aimed at Jews. The term originally entered the English language in order to describe 19th & 20th-century attacks on Jews in the Russian Empire (mostly within the Pale of Settlement, what would become Ukraine and Belarus).  Three laws in particular stand out, an unholy trinity that, one by one, narrowed the range of immigrants who were allowed entry via Ellis Island. the 1917 Immigration Act,  the Emergency Quota Act of 1921, and the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924,
AARP Virgin Islands is very pleased to be joining with Interfaith Council of the Caribbean (ICC) to present a special Martin Luther King event featuring Reverend Otis Moss and Andrew Sternberg on Sunday, January 22nd in the Administrative Conference Room on University of the Virgin Islands Campus on St. Thomas from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. and again on Monday, January 23rd, in the Cardiac Center adjacent to the Juan F. Luis Hospital on St. Croix from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Reverend Moss worked and marched with Dr. King and has personal knowledge to share about the life and philosophy of the man. Mr. Sternberg is a survivor from the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II and will also be providing a presentation on his experiences. Both men have a wealth of inspiring information and understanding to share about the how peace in the world can be achieved, despite overwhelming odds. On behalf of AARP VI and the Interfaith Council of the Caribbean we sincerely hope that you will be able to join us at one or both of these important events. It will be our pleasure to have you there. We look forward to seeing you there! Visit the Universsity of the Virgin Islands:  Visit AARP Virgin Islands: Visit the Interfaith Council of the Caribbean: Visit Rabbi Mike and the Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas:
African Americans & American Jews have interacted throughout much of the history of the United States. This relationship has included widely publicized cooperation & conflict. Cooperation during the African-American Civil Rights Movement (1954–68) was strategic & significant, culminating in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But the relationship has also been marred by conflict & controversy related to such topics as the role of a small number of American Jews, among a large number of other Americans & others, in the Atlantic slave trade. The summer of 1964 was designated the Freedom Summer, & many northern Jews traveled south to participate in a concentrated voter registration effort. Two Jewish activists, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, & 1 black activist, James Chaney, were murdered by the Ku Klux Klan near Philadelphia, Mississippi, as a result of their participation. Their deaths were considered martyrdom by some, & temporarily strengthened black-Jewish relations. Martin Luther King, Jr., said in 1965, How could there be anti-Semitism among Negroes when our Jewish friends have demonstrated their commitment to the principle of tolerance & brotherhood not only in the form of sizable contributions, but in many other tangible ways, & often at great personal sacrifice. Can we ever express our appreciation to the rabbis who chose to give moral witness with us in St. Augustine during our recent protest against segregation in that unhappy city? Need I remind anyone of the awful beating suffered by Rabbi Arthur Lelyveld of Cleveland when he joined the civil rights workers there in Hattiesburg, Mississippi? Who can ever forget the sacrifice of 2 Jewish lives, Andrew Goodman & Michael Schwerner, in the swamps of Mississippi? It would be impossible to record the contribution that the Jewish people have made toward the Negro's struggle for freedom—it has been so great.
Hebrew is a language native to Israel, spoken by over 9 million people worldwide, of which over 5 million are in Israel. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites and their ancestors, although the language was not referred to by the name Hebrew in the Tanakh. The earliest examples of written Paleo-Hebrew date from the 10th century BCE. Hebrew belongs to the West Semitic branch of the Afro-asiatic language family. Modern Hebrew is one of the 2 official languages of the State of Israel (the other being Modern Standard Arabic), while premodern Hebrew is used for prayer or study in Jewish communities around the world today. Ancient Hebrew is also the liturgical tongue of the Samaritans, while modern Hebrew or Arabic is their vernacular. As a foreign language, it is studied mostly by Jews and students of Judaism and Israel, and by archaeologists and linguists specializing in the Middle East and its civilizations, as well as by theologians in Christian seminaries. The Hebrew language is the thread that has bound the Jewish people together for millennia, both in liturgy and literature, and, in ancient times, as a spoken language. In the history of modern Zionism, however, if there is 1 event more miraculous than the establishment of the State of Israel, it is the revival of Hebrew as its common tongue. To make this revitalization possible, an uncommon organization was formed: The Academy of the Hebrew Language, the Israeli body with legislated authority to study, guard, and guide the development of the Hebrew language. The miracle of its rejuvenation today is credited to the work of journalist/scholar Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, often called the Father of Modern Hebrew. There were other Hebrew grammarians, scholars, & teachers of general topics. A local scholar of the Hebrew language is our very own Rabbi Michael Harvey who will teach Hebrew at the University of the Virgin Islands, St. Thomas campus.
Rabbi Mike will share the landmarks that students from the Montessori School on St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands visited during their trip to Israel & Jordan. The Liberty Bell Park and Surroundings, one of Jerusalem’s largest, created in 1976 in honor of the US bicentennial. The Weitzmann Institute of Science, one of the world’s leading multidisciplinary basic research institutions in the natural & exact sciences.  Shabbat at the Kotel:  According to Jewish tradition, the Western Wall is the holiest place on earth. It is never holier than on the holiest day of the week, Shabbat.  The Dead Sea, bordering Israel, the West Bank and Jordan, is a salt lake whose banks are more than 400 meters below sea level, the lowest point on dry land. The Old City covers roughly 220 acres). The surrounding walls date to the rule of the Ottoman Sultan, Suleiman, the Magnificent (1520-1566). Al Khazneh, one of the most elaborate temples in the ancient Arab Nabatean Kingdom city of Petra.  Jerusalem, a Middle Eastern city west of the Dead Sea, a place of pilgrimage & worship for Jews, Christians, & Muslims since the biblical era. Talpiyot, an Israeli neighborhood in southeast Jerusalem, established in 1922 by Zionist pioneers.  The Seige of Masada, one of the final events in the First Jewish–Roman War, from 73 to 74 CE on a large hilltop in current-day Israel. Petra, a famous archaeological site in Jordan's southwestern desert, dating to around 300 B.C. Visit
Immediately following Sukkot, we celebrate Sh'mini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, a fun-filled day during which we celebrate the completion of the annual reading of the Torah and affirm Torah as one of the pillars on which we build our lives. As part of the celebration, the Torah scrolls are taken from the ark and carried or danced around the synagogue seven times. During the Torah service, the concluding section of the fifth book of the Torah, D’varim (Deuteronomy), is read, and immediately following, the opening section of Genesis, or B'reishit as it is called in Hebrew, is read. This practice represents the cyclical nature of the relationship between the Jewish people and the reading of the Torah. ~ Courtesy Simchat Torah or Sim?ath Torah (also Simkhes Toreh, literally means "Rejoicing with/of the Torah,") is a celebration marking the conclusion of the annual cycle of public Torah readings, and the beginning of a new cycle. Simchat Torah is a component of the Biblical Jewish holiday of Shemini Atzeret ("Eighth Day of Assembly"), which follows immediately after the festival of Sukkot in the month of Tishrei (mid-September to early October on the Gregorian calendar). Simchat Torah begins at sundown on Monday, 24 October 2016. ~ Courtesy of holiday calendars & Hebrew date converter)
Sukkot, a Hebrew word meaning "booths" or "huts," refers to the Jewish festival of giving thanks for the fall harvest. It also commemorates the 40 years of Jewish wandering in the desert after the giving of the Torah atop Mt. Sinai. Sukkot, or Succot, literally Feast of Booths, is commonly translated to English as Feast of Tabernacles, sometimes also as Feast of the Ingathering. It is a biblical Jewish holiday celebrated on the 15th day of the month of Tishrei (varies from late September to late October). During the existence of the Jerusalem Temple it was one of the Three Pilgrimage on which the Israelites were commanded to perform a pilgrimage to the Temple. Sukkot has a double significance. The one mentioned in the Book of Exodus is agricultural in nature – "Feast of Ingathering at the year's end" (Exodus 34:22) – and marks the end of the harvest time and thus of the agricultural year in the Land of Israel. The more elaborate religious significance from the Book of Leviticus is that of commemorating the Exodus and the dependence of the People of Israel on the will of God (Leviticus 23:42-43). The holiday lasts seven days in Israel and eight in the diaspora. The first day (and second day in the diaspora) is a Shabbat-like holiday when work is forbidden. This is followed by intermediate days called Chol Hamoed, when certain work is permitted. The festival is closed with another Shabbat-like holiday called Shemini Atzeret (one day in Israel, two days in the diaspora, where the second day is called Simchat Torah). Shemini Atzeret coincides with the eighth day of Sukkot outside of Israel.  (The above courtesy of Rabbi Mike Harvey and Wikipedia.)
Notice: We're on Stitcher. Click => . We're also on iTunes. Welcome back to Chatting with Rabbi Mike, a discussion spot on Judaism, its history, its belief, and its practices, especially in the US Virgin and Caribbean. Rabbi Michael Harvey will be here every Tuesday at 11:00 am Eastern Time. We're now also on your Stitcher apps and devices, as well as on iTunes. The Interfaith Council of the Caribbean was founded to promote mutual understanding, respect, appreciation, & cooperation among people of various faith & cultural communities in the Caribbean, including the US & BVI. Its members are definitely encouraged to share their events and concerns and you are certainly invited to call with your questions or comments. The number is (323) 870-4095. Additionally, events will be announced, questions will be answered, and challenges accepted. This month is the Hebrew Month of Elul, a time of deep reflection and prayer for the Jewish people.  The month ends with the beginning of our new year, Rosh Hashanah, which takes place this year Sunday evening, October 2nd, 2016.  Jews will begin the year of 5777.  A week later, on October 11th, 2016, we celebrate Yom Kippur, our Day of Atonement.  Jews around the world, and in St. Thomas of course, will gather in synagogues that evening and the next day to confess our sins, ask for forgiveness, and try to begin our year the right way.  We fast on Yom Kippur so that we can focus on our prayer, and on our inner reflection.  It is an emotionally draining day, and a powerful day of self-study.  Michael E. Harvey | Rabbi, Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas | Congregation of Blessing, Peace and Loving Deeds, P.O. Box 266, St. Thomas, VI 00804,, Office: 340-774-4312
Welcome! Rabbi Michael Harvey's discussion on Judaism, its history, its belief, & its practices, especially in the US Virgin Islands & Caribbean every Tuesday at 11:00 am Atlantic Time. Events will be announced, questions will be answered, & challenges accepted. Rabbi Mike founded The Interfaith Council of the Caribbean to promote (ICC) to promote mutual understanding, respect, appreciation, & cooperation among people of various faith & cultural communities in the USVI, BVI, & Caribbean. Members of the ICC are definitely encouraged to share their beliefs, events, & concerns. You are certainly invited to call in with your questions or comments. The number is (323) 870-4095. This month is the Hebrew Month of Elul, a time of deep reflection and prayer for the Jewish people. The month ends with the beginning of our new year, Rosh Hashanah, which takes place this year Sunday evening, October 2nd, 2016. + Jews will begin the year of 5777.  A week later, on October 11th, 2016, we celebrate Yom Kippur, our Day of Atonement. Jews around the world, and in St. Thomas of course, will gather in synagogues that evening and the next day to confess our sins, ask for forgiveness, and try to begin our year the right way.  We fast on Yom Kippur so that we can focus on our prayer, and on our inner reflection. It is an emotionally draining day, and a powerful day of self-study.  Michael E. Harvey | Rabbi, Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas - Congregation of Blessing, Peace and Loving Deeds, P.O. Box 266, St. Thomas, VI 00804,, Office: 340-774-4312
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