At a time when researchers report that record numbers of Jewish people are uninterested in Judaism, shunning affiliation with synagogues, and assimilating in historically high numbers, Temple Beth El is enjoying a very exciting moment. As you read this, our young families and their children are actively planning to be more involved in our synagogue. I met with many of the parents recently and learned a great deal from them. First and foremost, they want to be part of the Jewish community and they want to strengthen their Jewish identity so that their children love being Jewish. They have asked to not have a separate children’s Shabbat service so they can participate in the regular Friday night service with the community. And they are working to make the religious school a more vital part of their children’s lives. Most importantly, they want to drop the “they” to ensure the “we.” As a community, we love having children in services. We love seeing children on the bimah. We love knowing the Hebrew School is growing. We love seeing young families light their menorahs at our annual Chanukah Party. We love the paper chains and artwork in the Sukkah. We love the intergenerational experience that our synagogue offers, and we all love sharing this in our small town where we often feel like a minority. Jewish continuity is important everywhere, but it really matters in Oneonta.
Adin Steinsaltz, a famous Talmud scholar, stated that a Jew is not someone whose grandparents are Jewish, but someone who wants her/his grandchildren to be Jewish. And this captures a sensibility in our synagogue. If we are to defy the statistics and contribute to the spirit of our synagogue, we need members who value Jewish continuity in its varied forms. Regardless of our level of religious education or religious orthodoxy, we are Jewish and we are here. Therefore, Jewish continuity requires that we participate. Through our participation we will make Temple Beth El a living Jewish community, one with a vision of our future and a plan for what our future will be. Attending services and events is the least anyone can do.
On that note, a long-term planning committee will convene in January, led by an experienced professional who will focus our team on the most important elements of the process. Please let me know if you will help with this very important work.
On January 27, we will hold our annual vote on the Rabbi’s contract. A number of people have asked why we are doing this in the middle of winter. Believe it or not, there is a good reason. Synagogues plan this way in case the contract is not renewed (by either party). A winter vote allows time for a synagogue to find a new Rabbi, and a Rabbi to find a new synagogue. If we are snowed out on January 27, we will meet the following Sunday, February 3. Please come. Your voice and vote matter.
On a lighter note, we love sharing the happy moments in our synagogue with our members. If you have good photos from events at Temple Beth El, please send them to Sue Carbone for the website or The Shofar. In addition to sharing photos from our events and services in the monthly bulletin, we need to update the website. You can email photos to Sue: firstname.lastname@example.org
To ensure Temple Beth El’s future, we need the continued support of our members. Please be an active part of the Jewish community. We need you.
I look forward to seeing everyone at the Chanukah Party. Bring your menorah and matches. Happy Chanukah!