This past Shabbat morning, I was in heaven. When I arrived at the Temple building, there was commotion and chaos everywhere I looked. Poor Francisco – one of our our hard-working custodians - was working overtime – and doing a great job!. It seemed like every room in the building was occupied. They were. You see, we were hosting the NFTY (North American Federation of Temple Youth) Winter Chavurah. Over 200 teenagers from Missouri, Kansas, Southern Illinois, Colorado and Nebraska had come to Temple Emanuel to learn, pray, sing, socialize make new friends and rekindle old relationships and have fun. And boy were they having fun!
But it wasn’t only the fact that the NFTY kids were in the building that made me so happy. On that morning we also had Torah Study, Adult B’nai Mitzvah class, Young family (Tot) Shabbat, a bar mitzvah and our community Shabbat service. The building was filled to the brim and humming with Jewish energy. And that’s the way it should always be.
When I came to Temple Emanuel two and a half years ago, I was tasked by the Board of Trustees with creating a new vision for Jewish life in our congregation that built upon the tremendous legacy of Rabbi Foster. Janet Bronitsky and I worked with a marketing firm to come up with the phrase: “Celebrate Being Jewish!” But to me, this is more than a marketing campaign – it’s a mission – a way of life. As I said on Rosh HaShanah this past year, if we are truly to succeed in uniting our large and diverse congregation, we will need to ensure that there are multiple portals of entry into Jewish life – so that everybody will feel welcome and have a place.
The energy that filled our building last Shabbat was exactly what we want to sustain every week at Temple Emanuel. We are constantly striving to create opportunities for every member of our sacred community to find their place. We will soon be announcing a major Shabbat initiative that will take place this Spring – watch your bulletins, mailboxes and email for more information. I can’t wait to see what next Shabbat will look like…..
Rabbi Joe Black