Shema Koleinu

High Holy Days 5778 – Looking Back

Wow, has more than a month already gone by since we gathered as a community in the beautiful Miramar Cultural Center to celebrate the High Holidays 5778?  I can’t believe it; but, it has.  To be honest, September and October have flown by and, in my mind, are a combination of a blur of activity and a collection very specific moments which I can picture with level of clarity that makes them seem almost current.

Looking Back… Irma, I Heard You!

Let me be honest, the prelude to this year’s high holidays was not what I (or any of us) had expected.  Hear that Irma?!  The two weeks leading up to the holidays, during which I traditionally plan my services and coordinate the seemingly endless details associated with this undertaking, were interrupted by constant weather reports complete with a big storm icon emblazoned with the number five, right over my house!  So, I bought water and canned goods, and batteries and fans. I hurricane proofed my house and I prepared for evacuation.  And, I worked on my plans for the Hi-Ho’s 5778. Unfortunately, time does not stand still; and fortunately, life goes on.  So did I.   Sadly,  something had to give;  this year it was sleep.  Everything else was too high a priority.

Eventually, Irma came and went.  Truthfully, she was frightening; but,  in the end,  she was “only” a category one.  We saw the local damage she caused and we were all thankful we weren’t hit harder.   Once I knew I was safe,I moved back home (after my brief evacuation to Delray).  Then, with the help of my kids, I cleaned up all the hurricane debris around my house.  And, during it all, I finished planning! Before I knew it, Rosh Hashanah was upon us.

Services for High Holidays  – Cycles of our Lives

Our Rabbi, and Shofar Blower, Rabbi Steve

The Miramar Cultural Center was beautiful, as always.  Honestly, I have grown to love this venue.  It truly feels like each year I am coming home.    My community, my families, were actively present, and as always and I was beyond grateful to be there.  Together with my father, Rabbi Steve, my daughter and son-in-law, Lauren and Jay, my son Trevor (who carries the Torah for the Hakafah!) and my most favorite congregant, my grandson Jayden, things couldn’t have been more perfect.

Cantor Debbi lights up when she sings for her Shema Koleinu community

The focus of my sermon was the number 7, which I shared has great significance in the Bible and in numerology.   The knowledge that this  was the seventh year we celebrated the high holidays in this location, together, brought me a special sense of peace.   Remember, seven represents end of a cycle, it symbolizes completion and identifies an opportunity to review all that has occurred.

The Past Paves the Road to the Future

I have spent considerable time reviewing. Now, I believe, it is time to move forward.  As I look ahead, I find my heart and my head filled with excitement as I begin a new cycle.  I remember this feeling from seven years ago, and I welcome it.  Where will life take me?  What new and exciting adventures lie ahead?  Without question, I know that what I have built here, in South Florida, will  serve as a formidable foundation for what comes next.  It is strong, well-developed and ready to grow.

The community I have brought together often seems like an extension of my own family.  I treasure celebrating with you.  Our time together is special, not only the high holidays as part of Shema Koleinu (, but also all your life cycle events:  your bar and bat mitzvahs, your weddings and your baby namings.  I love working with your children and building relationships that enrich my life on a daily basis.  So many of you have grown from my clients for a single event, to  members of my community for all that we do together, to my friends for a lifetime. And, I cherish those relationships more than words can say.

The Next Cycle

Rabbi Steve with his great grandson, Jayden

So, as I embark on my next cycle, so do all of you.  It may not be the cycle that the number seven signifies.  It may simply be the cycle of a new year.  While the high holidays have passed, the  traditional “holiday season” is  almost upon us.  First, Thanksgiving is upon us.  Then we will celebrate Hanukkah and New Years.  Start now to determine what is next for you personally and professionally.  By beginning to plan your next cycle now, you are giving yourself time to reflect on the past, visualize the future.  As a result, you will be able to  develop a well-thought out plan to achieve your goals.

Perhaps you can help me plan my next cycle.  First, are you familiar with any areas with a large, unaffiliated Jewish population that may have a void that I can help fill? Any ideas of where can I expand the services that I offer?  Please, let me know if you do.  I am always looking to grow, to expand the communities which I serve and to evolve in everything that I do.  All of this, of course, will happen while I continue to serve all of you, my community, my friends, my family.  In short, a new cycle is the perfect time to look ahead.


Cantor Debbi Ballard, a fixture in the unafilliated Jewish community of south Florida, has over 13 years experience providing spiritual guidance, officiating at life cycle events and serving her community in many ways.  For more information visit



Mitzvah Makers – Community Service at its Best

I am passionate about community service.  Because I recognize how truly lucky I am, I appreciate the fact that I can positively influence the lives of others.  While those who know me well have seen the tremendous role service plays in my life, they have also witnessed my commitment to share this belief both with the families in my community and, most importantly, the students with whom I work.  It can be difficult, as an individual, to make a difference.   However, I have help!  Here is where I am really lucky!

Who are the Mitzvah Makers?

I advise a group of teens (comprised of my post Bar and Bat Mitzvah students) who are dedicated to improving the areas in which they live through community service.  They are my “Mitzvah Makers”.  A philosophical component of  of my spiritual education program focuses on community service.  Specifically,  I share my belief that being  “adult” (again, post B-mitzvah age) members of society requires us to be responsible for our communities and compassionate with regard to our neighbors.

This group has a history of proven dedication to their community.  They have coordinated Thanksgiving Food Drives, organized children’s activity/carnival days, and collected holiday gifts for less fortunate children.    Mitzvah Makers meet monthly with me and, as a group, identify needs in their community where they believe they can help.

Being a “Mitzvah Maker” provides service minded youth an organization within which to operate.  They learn to identify problems, brainstorm solutions and work together as team to develop a plan to make a difference.  In short, these teens have a positive impact on their community while enhancing the  interpersonal skills that will serve them well in to the future.

Community Service – Feeding the Hungry

For years I have been dedicated to  providing assistance to the homeless population in South Florida.  Often times, this group is overlooked when community service projects are discussed.  People often make uneducated judgments.  Therefore, they assume that being homeless is a result of being lazy.  This simply is not true.  In fact, there are many reasons why an individual may become homeless.  Things happen that are beyond control.  That said, I strongly believe in withholding judgement.   Instead, I focus on helping those less fortunate simply because it is the right thing to do.

Because of this, I regularly share my commitment to feeding the homeless with my community.  In fact, each year a number of my Bar and Bat Mitzvah students elect to “feed the homeless” as their mitzvah project.

Recently, my Mitzvah Makers elected to coordinate a day of “feeding the homeless”.  Needless to say, I was so proud.  Together, they made sandwiches and bagged lunches. (Thank you to the XXX family for sharing your home so we had a place to work.) Then, we transported our food to Fort Lauderdale and personally distributed it.  Historically, everyone who receives lunches from me has been polite and grateful.  This trip was no exception.

What’s coming up

This month our Mitzvah Makers have embarked on something new – a pet food and snack collection to be donated to a local rescue organization.  The recent hurricanes across the country have brought forward the issue of abandoned animals.  This is a tremendous problem in our country and there are a number of organizations in South Florida dedicated to helping to solve this problem.  We encourage you to learn more about it and contribute where you can.

For more information on Mitzvah Makers visit Shema Koleinu at Cantor Debbi Ballard has been serving the unafilliated Jewish community of South Florida for 13 years.  Learn more about her at

Everything you want to know (and more!) about the High Holy Days from

I always appreciate the articles from our friends at! Today’s blog entry comes to us from IFF just I time for the High Holy Days, just ONE week away!

High Holy Days

Guide to the High Holy Days

As South Florida emerges from the chaos of Hurricane Irma, people around the world are preparing to greet the High Holy Days with spiritual preparation, as well as preparation in the kitchen.

Whatever your “prep” – enjoy this article and see if there is anything you actually didn’t already know!

As always, L’Shana Tova!  We’ll be posting much more now that we have wifi!  And don’t forget to order your tickets for services next week!




Top 5 Reasons to Attend Shema Koleinu High Holy Days – Jewish New Year Services 2017/5778

We could write all day about why we love our High Holy Days and our Shema Koleinu Jewish New Year services, but we figured there is no better way to tell you than to seek out one of our congregants to help tell the story! In this blog post, Melissa Ferber, from Weston, tells us why Shema Koleinu is her favorite place to be for the High Holy Days and for all her Jewish community connections. Continue reading →

Mitzvah Makers New Member Welcome

August 29, 2015Debbi BallardServices0

Title: Mitzvah Makers New Member Welcome
Location: Victoria Isle Park – Weston Hills
Description: We can’t wait to welcome our new Mitzvah Makers this year so join us as we gather for a meet-and-greet – come have a bagel and a coffee, get to meet our senior Mitzvah Makers, and kick this year off right!

Our Mitzvah Makers are amazing! This year, we have a record 45 students registered for the new season.  Every month, we meet for a social hour and to plan the upcoming events for the next 2 months.  We support amazing initiatives like Jeans for Teens, Feeding the Homeless, Children’s Harbor, JAFCO and many more!

Mitzvah Makers celebrating our donation to Jeans for Teens

Mitzvah Makers celebrating our donation to Jeans for Teens

Mitzvah Makers at Fort Lauderdale's Children's Harbor

Mitzvah Makers at Fort Lauderdale’s Children’s Harbor

We’d love to have you join us for an amazing year!

Contact Cantor Debbi for more information!
Start Time: 11:30
Date: 2015-08-30
End Time: 12:30

Mitzvah Makers in the news!

I’m so proud of our 2014/2015 Mitzvah Makers and all of the wonderful work they have done this year.

I have to say, the highlight of the year, however, has been the friendships and comraderie that has taken place in our wonderful group.  Our kids LOVE to help others and they are having so much fun doing it.  And at the same time, I’ve just fallen more in love with this group and what it stands for.

So proud of our young leadership – and looking forward to another wonderful year next year.  Way to go, Mitzvah Makers!  You have made me so proud!

See us in action in the Weston Sports & Activities magazine.


Shema Koleinu Mitzvah Makers in action in Weston and around town