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[KE CyberTorah] Hanukkat HaBayit

Hanukkat HaBayit

Long ago, the Maccabees succeeded in rededicating the Temple in Jerusalem. They rejoiced with palms, sang and circled the Temple precincts. The moment was of such amazing joy that the community called for the Jewish people to observe these festive days for all time. And so the festival of Hanukkah was born as a Jewish time of celebration.

This Hanukkah, we too are dedicating our new Synagogue. Like the Maccabees, we see the new Kol Emeth as a catalyst, an invitation, to imagine, to create, to engage, and to renew. We honor and treasure our legacy even as we see a bright future in front of us. Our building matters when it inspires us to approach our Jewish living with passion, our faith with fervency, and our time with great creativity.

We have many strengths to celebrate. We have great lay and professional leadership. I feel blessed every day to work with people like Lisa Peckler and Rabbi Graff. We have an incredible new building that is beautiful, spiritual, and richly Jewish. We have a thriving young families community and people who love being a part of our events.

At the same time, we have great challenges in front of us. What does it mean to be a Synagogue community in this era of declining religious engagement? What are the new capacities we need to meet the spiritual and communal needs in a time of disruption and increasing social complexity and division? 

I believe we have great tools for this work. First is Hesed. We care for one another. We work hard to welcome newcomers. Volunteers bring meals to those recovering from illness and loss. We welcome people regardless of background and sexual orientation.  Second is faith. We bring a diversity of belief into our community and encourage one another in their spiritual journeys. We live as a God centric community without mandating everyone be believers. Third are communal resources. We have a strategic plan laying out priorities, we have dedicated volunteers and staff who truly love the community, we have donors to whom we are so grateful. We have the spiritual and physical tools to meet the moment. All we need is the inspiration and the will.

I believe there are several key areas in which we need to expand our capacity. First is lay leadership.   The tasks in front of our lay leaders are immense. How we create stable governance, renewal of lay leadership, and stable finances form the body of the spiritual community we are building. How can we continue to attract people able and willing to take on these challenges?

Second is outreach. Our professional team loves the community and its members. Between Zoom and in person services, we are working hard and with great devotion to caring for our current members and programs. How can we develop the capacity to learn about the spiritual and communal needs of millennials and gen z’ers and meet them?

Third is music. I love singing and ruach. How can we create a richly musical environment at Kol Emeth that relies on human voices and rhythm, that uses musical instruments meaningfully when Halakhically appropriate, and fosters a rich sense of song? Here too we have much to build on and much to build.

I am grateful to be part of this community inspired to work with you to answer these questions and respond to these challenges as we have stood up so many times in the past. 

Happy Hanukkah and Shabbat Shalom!
Rabbi David Booth

Sat, December 9 2023 26 Kislev 5784