These days any event that speaks of celebration and hope needs to be validated. I recently had the honor of participating in an erev Shabbat service that celebrated the rabbi’s consecration/installation as well as the consolidation of two smaller synagogues into a new entity. Why, may you ask is this event so important at this time? Because, I suggest, that this small act of coming together as a community speaks to the underlying truth of Jewish history. Even in moments of anxiety and despair, we Jews never give up hope.
The congregation that showed up to celebrate and worship, by their act, in their own small way, presented as a living counterpoint to the news of war and fear that continues to dominate the news. Yes, they made their way passed the armed guard whose cruiser was placed by the main door. Yes, the service made note of the tragedy in Israel, the hostages and those who had been killed. That reality was never out of mind. But the presence of so many people who came out to observe this special Shabbat, who came to honor their new rabbi and to celebrate the beginning of a new congregation; their presence spoke volumes. They were eidim, witnesses to a new beginning. Even as the news was reporting new fighting in Gaza and Israel, and new “creditable” threats to Jewish institutions here, it was important for these people to be present.
There has been a lot of conversation in these past few weeks about what we can do. Every synagogue I know, and every Jewish organization has sent out lists of places that will receive donations and help. What occurred to me on this recent Friday night was the understanding that by showing up, by celebrating our community, we make a statement. We hope, amid anxiety and fear, we do not stay home, we gather as community as if to say, each in a different way, that the Jewish community is strong and that in moments like these, we come together. There may be no greater show of faith than a strong community.
Stay safe and well. Shalom,
Rabbi Richard F Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.