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The terrible killings at the AME Church in Charleston captured national attention on a grand scale. All of us can relate to it because as Jews, we have experienced, through the centuries, what it feels like to be a target of hate. I would like to relate the Charleston tragedy to a big theme in our parashat: “Making space.” I am struck by how much space has been made by the Charleston community, church members and even victims' family–space of compassion, space for love and support, space even for forgiveness, which was stunning and even jarring to me, so close to the moment. But clearly they restricted space as well. They closed ranks and their doors to hatred and malice, and showed us a community that proudly built bridges of care and of love. I will suggest three concrete and symbolic ways that we can make more room for one another as well.
Before this though, in the parashat chukat, Moses is told to be “the rod” and told to assemble the people and talk, so that water will come out of the rock. Why, asks a commentator, does God tell Moses to bring THE STAFF when He might have understood that it would trip Moses up and he would use it to strike rather than to speak to the rock? Because, we learn, it was to used for the first miracle. The first miracle was to conjure space so that all might be included. Millions of people gathered before the rock. The staff expanded the spiritual space that allowed all to be included–millions of people fit and stood before the rock!
Space, says the old Star Trek prelude, is The Final Frontier! Our lives, on so many levels, are comprised of, and our tradition is about, the making of space. The Kabalists tell us that tzimzum, the contraction of God and His expansion of space, was how material reality came into being. Where would we be if God hadn’t expanded the space? When we marry, we join two souls together as one. We make room for our spouse so that our souls and our lives intersect. We cannot neglect the self and become the other, but we must let the other in. Those of us who send our kids off to camp sense how the house seems to expand, which allows us to throw away some of the debris of the year to make more room for them when they come back!
Charleston is not just a tragedy, but it is also an opportunity. How do we make more space in light of Charleston–as a nation, as a community, and as individuals? There are two concrete and symbolic acts that immediately come to mind. South Carolina has “made it right” with their minority community by lowering that confederate flag and confining it to a museum. The confederate flag was a part of their past, no doubt, but not a part of their future. Homage to ancestors should take the form of visiting the cemetery or observing the date of death in personal ways. Short of this, flying their flag is idolatry; it’s idolatry of ancestor worship. And it is greatly selfish. The honored and genteel history of the South cannot be remembered without the stain of evil of institutionalized slavery. That flag stands for the bartering and owning of human lives. To maintain otherwise is to attempt to put lipstick on a a pig. It is good to see that some politicians in the state move in that direction–in the direction of expanding space and reaching out to include.
I am quite sure that we are all enjoying the more relaxed pace of the summer months, time to spend more quality time with family and friends.
As our Religious School continues it's growth, I am more than pleased to report the we have been able to fill THREE new positions for the upcoming new school year. For the first time in many years, we will have multiple classes requiring two teachers per class! This is obviously quite exciting and in point of fact, if the numbers remain the same going forward, we will need to build/create a few new classrooms. l would like to extend our gratitude to Frank Brecher, Melissa Kurtz, Helaine Schwartz and Karen Schweitzer who were so helpful in the interviewing process of numerous candidates to fill the various teaching positions.
During the summer months, with regular attendees traveling, our Shabbat services need your participation. Friday nights and Shabbat mornings are so warm and friendly and take place in our Bet Midrash. I encourage you to come on down and experience these uplifting and enjoyable services. Services during the summer months are generally shorter as we obviously have no Bar or Bat Mitzvah celebrations.
We have decided this year to have THREE separate Junior Congregation services during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, which will undoubtedly enhance the quality and result in more meaningful services for all of our children. There will be separate services for Pre-Gan & Gan, Alef thru Gimmel and finally Daled & Hay. In addition, the leaders of these different services will be able to have a greater degree of control due to the reduced number of children in each service.
I wish you all an enjoyable and safe summer! Read More
I’ve had an amazing first year as your ENJC President, witness to and part of some exceptional experiences and initiatives that make our synagogue the truly outstanding place we know it to be. It’s so rewarding to sit on the bima as our young teens become bar and bat mitzvah with such skill and poise. Our Religious School continues to grow with each passing year. We are in the process of refinancing our mortgage, which will improve our financial position for the future. You’ll notice improvements to our building as well. New outdoor lighting has been installed adjacent to the sanctuary doors, the Religious School, and in the parking lot. These high-efficiency sensor lamps will aid in lowering our electrical usage and costs.
Of course the year has held many challenges as well. Low turnout for our Purim celebration, for instance, due to an unexpected snow storm, was very disappointing; and the ongoing need for attendance at minyanim, which is a situation so many Long Island synagogues face, is something you can help to alleviate by making a conscious effort to attend more services.
As another year begins, I am appreciative of the efforts of our Board Members, synagogue clergy and staff, Religious School teachers and our congregants to prepare for the upcoming holidays, services and programming that make the ENJC a thriving and bustling center of activity for spiritual support and familial and community collaboration. It’s going to be a great year at the ENJC–I look forward to seeing you there!