It is with immense gratitude that I am experiencing this celebration – a new ritual that raises the awareness of our collective partnership. You might not know, but this is a first for me, and I am incredibly grateful for this moment.
I am indebted first to the members of the committee for making this happen, and I want to take a moment to thank Eileen, Linda, Michelle and Sandra. You’re amazing.
Also, all the leadership – everyone that serve in the board from last year, everyone who has taken up a position on the board this year. I have been in many board meetings throughout my life, and this is by far the best. A board that has clear its function, and that values and respects the work of its committees is a board with a great sense of ethics. The fact that most meetings last one hour is a clear proof that Adath Israel has a great institutional culture, and I feel blessed by this, too.
Jonathan Shapiro was the president of my first year at Adath Israel; and Carly Hoss will be the president of what we can call my second first year at Adath Israel.
Jonathan has been a great leader – and this past year was a difficult one to say the least, with a few curveballs added to the mix. So thanks go to Jonathan for your unwavering comitment to Adath Israel, for your vision of renewing the school grounds and for seizing the disaster of the Nester center and transforming it into a possibility of a youth center.
Carly, I am sure you will be a fantastic president. You are bringing new energy, a strong vision and a rich personality to Adath Israel. You understand that it is not just about maintaing what we have, but about growing and transforming our community.
I’d love to always call you by your full title “Jewish Rockstar of Radical Action and Joy, Modern Day Queen President Carly Hoss” but that is a mouthful, so you will have to accept just President. But I want to give you this tshirt, that says in Hebrew “zeh madam president bishvilchah” which means “it is madam president to you”. Because being president is a second job, it is demanding as it is fulfilling. Jonathan and every president knows this – you get as much meaning and fulfillment as you give into the job.
And let’s not forget Joanna who is the unsung hero of our community, nor Julio, who is the force behind our building being clean and ready for prime time. Thank you both for always being here.
Our relationship has begun in a difficult year, the year of COVID. As we collectively struggled to understand and accept the challenges this brought, and how to move forward, and how to mute and unmute, how to participate and sing alone but together, I have been constantly reminded of a saying in Pirkei Avot – if you keep the tradition going in difficult times, ultimately you will keep it going in better times. But if you don’t keep it going in difficult times, you will eventually abandon it in better times.
We, collectively, kept the tradition going. To those who came to services via Zoom, and learned together by trial and error how to make this work; thank you – you know who you are, and I don’t want to make a list and then forget names. But a special shout out to David Kaye and Richard Kamins, who are as supportive ritual chairs as a new rabbi can ask.
I have a favor to ask you at this point, this very moment: close your eyes for a moment, and give yourself ten seconds to see the Jewish community of your dreams. Your ideal Jewish community. What does it look like? Besides services and classes, what else does it bring? How enriched are you by your community, at the end of a year? How friendly is it? How embracing of diversity is it? How deeply comitted to Torah is it? How joyful? How meaningful?
And this should be a reminder that a community is what you personally make it to be. How engaged you are in your community is how fabulously close to that dream your community becomes. How much you dedicate yourself is how much you fall in love with your community. Our community is born anew every day, just like the world.
A Jewish community is a place where Jews are made, where Jews become ever more concious of our heritage and our inheritance, where we find support, meaning and guidance to deal with the inevitable difficulties of life. A rabbi is the facilitator for that – but a rabbi and their family are not someone who lives Judaism in your stead. Only you, personally, can live a meaningful Jewish life.
As members of our community, we need to do outreach – to live full Jewish lives, with depth, joy and pride; embracing our covenant, enabling others to join our covenant and opening and sustaining inclusive spaces for those who have made the decision to walk with us. To live deeply and fully both the ideals of tikkun olam, fixing the world; tikkun atzmi, fixing ourselves and kiddush Hashem, bringing light and holiness to this world by revealing the presence of God in everyone of our actions.
And as members of our community, we also need to do inreach – to strengthen our relationships within, to provide care, love and support to each other in this journey we call life, to be of service to others. This is particularly important given the fact that our community’s inreach forces were brought to a halt with COVID. Zoom meetings are the best solution for COVID times, but they are a very inadequate substitute to creating new relationships.
To those who joined the board this year, and to those who have served and serve in many capacities, as volunteers for all sorts of incredible activities – you are making the community of your dreams.
Adath Israel has 18 different committees, so a particular shout out goes to the Education and the Advertising committees, because they are engaged deeply with the future and sustainability of our Adath Israel; and another shout out goes to the cemetery, the hevra kadisha and the museum, because they are deeply engaged in Adath Israel’s past.
But what about our present, this bridge between the two? I can only tell you: it is what we make it to be. The bridge will become as wide and inclusive as we make it. The 13 other committees plus the daily minyan, the Shabbat crowd, the book club, the veterans group, the mahjongg group, the soon to exist movie club, the people who come for classes – we are the present of the community. There is no future without a strong present. And that present is ourselves, collectively, engaged, in love with the ideal community until we make it ours.
So let’s walk together, making this bridge wider and larger, giving to each other a Judaism that is deeper and richer, full of meaning.