Life Cycle Events

Marking of sacred times in people’s lives is one of the joys of Jewish living.

Our congregants come to mark the blessed joyful times through namings, b’nai mitzvah, confirmation, etc. These moments have a personal tone and imprint as well as communal. Our Rabbis and our leadership at Gates of Heaven want to create positive Jewish memories that will empower you to be proud and well-connected to your Jewish faith.

To deepen and enrich your spiritual life, our synagogue has become a center for celebrating joyful moments and for support during sorrowful ones. We come together at times of joy and sadness, in celebration, and in support throughout the lives of our congregants and their families.

We are always here for you. Please do not hesitate to call on us when you need support.


  • baby with shadow

    Brit Milah (translated Covenant of Circumcision)

    This is a religious ceremony in which the male child is brought into the covenant by means of circumcision with blessings and prayers. Then the boy is given a Hebrew name, linking him to his Jewish family and history. The ceremony is held on the eighth day and can be held at the synagogue or at your home.

    Baby Naming: For a girl, there is a naming ceremony. The child is brought to the synagogue on Shabbat to be named by the Rabbi in front of the Ark during Shabbat Services. All of the same blessings and readings are done for the girl as for a boy, minus the blessing of the Milah. The child’s name is announced with an explanation of who they were named after or what the significance is of their name. The Rabbi then will bless the child.

    For more information, questions or concerns, or to schedule Rabbi Matt to perform a Bris or Baby Naming ceremony, please contact Rabbi Assistant, Michelle Warren at or call 518-374-8173.

    You also need to schedule a Mohel to perform the actual circumcision. Local Mohel we recommend is Dr. Efraim Bach at 518-382-2260.

  • Sammy Sorbo BBM with rabbi

    Our students prepare for this milestone through four years of Hebrew School, consultation with Rabbi Matt, and individual tutoring on Torah, Haftorah, and T’fillot, in addition to public speaking and bimah etiquette tutoring to prepare them to lead services during Friday evening and Saturday morning on the Shabbat of their bar/bat mitzvah and to fulfil the mitzvot of a Jewish life.

  • Do you remember your Bar/Bat Mitzvah? Would you like to renew your
    connection to the prayers and Torah text you learned? Or perhaps you never had a Bar/Bat Mitzvah and would like to. The Adult B’nai Mitzvah course prepares adults to comfortably access the texts and prayers of our tradition. This course will prepare you for a Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony in the spring.

    Taught by: Michael Schulman
    Sundays beginning 9/16/18 at 10:00 a.m.
    Tuition: $75. Scholarships are available. Materials: $20

    To register or for more information, please contact our Director of Congregational Jewish Living, Arnie Rotenberg at or 518-374-8173

  • confirmation fun

    A celebration on the road to high school graduation is Confirmation, a highlight of Reform Jewish education.

    It is the policy of our congregation to require a commitment from parents and child at the time of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah to continue religious education through Confirmation which is integrated our high school program, Kolel, held on Wednesday nights, and includes numerous learning and study opportunities with Rabbi Matt and Arnie Rotenberg.

    Students experience a rigorous course of studies and cement social relationships through informal gatherings leading to the creation of the Confirmation service.

    Confirmation is a Jewish ceremony generally unique to Reform synagogues. In the late 19th century, when the movement was coming together, it was observed that young men were disappearing from the synagogue after becoming Bar Mitzvah. In fact, many synagogues did not even offer any educational or social opportunities for these newly minted “Jewish adults”; they were expected to start attending Shabbat worship. It was the feeling of the earlier reformers that the age of Bar/Bat Mitzvah was not appropriate for young teens to make any serious kind of commitment to continued Jewish practice and faith. Confirmation, not burdened by tradition could include young women as well as men. In the mid-20th century, when Bar Mitzvah returned to our movement, this time accompanied by Bat Mitzvah, Confirmation at the end of tenth grade remained as a next step in the process of Jewish growth.

    Confirmation has been an important moment in the life of our teens and of our congregation. Walking downstairs in the hall you will see pictures in a place of honor representing the many generations of Confirmation classes at Congregation Gates of Heaven. The Rabbi can tell stories of people coming into the Temple and going to find their picture to show a fiancé, a child, or just to reminisce.

    Bar/Bat Mitzvah is the individual child stepping forward into the world of mitzvot – of embracing the opportunity to become a link in the chain of tradition. Confirmation is an opportunity for affirming as a group the values of communal living within Jewish tradition. During the Confirmation year, students study with Rabbi Matt and Arnie and strengthen their bond as a class

    Confirmation is by no means the final step. When we bless our teens on that day of celebration we are imagining them moving on to a larger community of teens who will experience Jewish peoplehood in the State of Israel and continued Jewish growth in our 11th & 12th-grade program.

    Each step, from Consecration to Bar/Bat Mitzvah and Confirmation reinforces the notion that lifelong Jewish study is something to be cherished.

  • Mazel Tov! We are delighted to share in your joy.

    To inquire about Rabbi Matt’s availability to officiate your ceremony, please contact his assistant, Michelle Warren at 

    You may also email Rabbi Matt directly with your questions at

    To inquire about using our facility for your ceremony, luncheon, or reception, please contact our Executive Director Laura Ehrich at

    We would love to share your Simcha with your congregational family. To place an announcement in our temple bulletin, please contact Kathy at

    The Aufruf: The couple will be called to the bimah for a public acknowledgment and blessing of their marriage.

    To schedule an Aufruf or to sponsor an Oneg Shabbat in honor of an Aufruf, please contact Michelle Warren at

    The Huppah: A Jewish wedding ceremony typically occurs under a huppah (shown above.) The huppah is a canopy with four open sides that cover the couple during the ceremony. It consists of a square cloth that is supported by four poles. The poles can stand freely or be held upright by four people. It is considered an honor to hold a huppah pole. The huppah symbolizes the new home the couple will create together. It’s also open on all sides to convey their home is open to guests. It has been compared to Abraham’s tent, which was open on all sides to welcome travelers.

    We have two huppot that can be used at no charge. The above photo shows our formal huppah made of brass and velvet and is freestanding (image shows how one couple decorated the huppah with flowers; optional.) We also have a casual huppah that has a colorful cloth and dark wood poles and is not freestanding.

    kettubahThe Ketubbah: The Jewish marriage contract. This legal document details the couples rights and responsibilities and is signed by the couple and witnesses. The Rabbi may read part of the ketubbah during the wedding ceremony. Often they are embellished with calligraphy and personalized artwork, and framed and hung in the couples home.

  • bereavement

    Your congregational family would like to express their condolences and offer support to you in this most difficult time.

    Please notify the temple office when a loved one has passed away, even if the deceased and services are held out of town.

    Rabbi Matt will help guide you through the funeral, burial, and Shiva procedures that are customary in the Jewish tradition, as well as comfort the family in this time of need.

    Our Sisterhood Reyut Committee will help the family make arrangements for Shiva, luncheon, and house sitting. In addition, they will provide meals and support throughout the grieving process. To speak to someone from Reyut, contact the temple office. We will have someone from our caring community contact you.

    Rabbi’s Assistant, Michelle will send out a bereavement notice to our congregants upon your request. Rabbi Matt will convey this information, or you may contact Michelle directly at 518-374-8173 x111 or email her at

     Shiva (translated seven): Traditionally the seven day period of mourning following a burial (or cremation), however, this may not be realistic. So sitting Shiva for the first three days is acceptable. During this time family members “sit Shiva” and receive visitors, hold Shiva services, and recite Kaddish. Rabbis Matt and Eleanor Pearlman or one of our trained lay members will lead these services. Visitors come to the home during this time to ensure a minyan in order to recite Kaddish.

  • yahrzeit candle

    Yahrzeit (translated year’s time): It is a mitzvah to observe the yahrzeit (anniversary of the day of death) each year with the recitation of Kaddish and attendance at synagogue services. It is customary to light a twenty-four-hour candle on the eve of the yahrzeit date.

    Candles are available for purchase at the temple for $1 or many grocery stores, such as Price Chopper Super Markets, carry these candles.

    The family may choose to observe either the Hebrew or the secular date of death, but whichever date is chosen should be agreed to by the entire family, so that all may observe the occasion at the same time, and if possible, together.

    For our members, we will track your loved ones Yahrzeit anniversary and send you a notification of when it will be recited during Shabbat services.

    Yahrzeit is not an occasion for renewed mourning, but rather a day consecrated each year to the memory of the dead. The observance of yahrzeit should move the family to the performance of mitzvot (eg., tzedakah or study) in honor of the deceased.