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“A Message from the Past,” Rabbi Zecher’s Shabbat Awakenings

June 21, 2024 | 15 Sivan 5784

I wasn’t expecting a Google Alert that told me about the 80th anniversary of Temple Israel of Boston, but there it was in my email.  I’m sure some google AI algorithm connected me.  Nevertheless, I was surprised to read of a December 6th story from 1934 from the archives of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

I decided it must be a purposeful message from the past.

Boston Temple Will Observe 80th Birthday, December 6, 1934

The eightieth anniversary of the founding of Temple Israel will be celebrated this week-end, it was announced today. Rabbi Harry Levy will deliver a special sermon Friday to commemorate the occasion and a children’s choir will be featured Saturday morning.

Regular services will be broadcast Sunday morning over Station WNAC. The celebration will culminate that evening with a banquet and pageant depicting the temple’s history.

Temple Israel, founded in 1854, claimed but nineteen families as members at the time. The first rabbi was Joseph Sachs. In 1924 it moved to larger quarters.

Rabbi Levy, present spiritual guide, is the fourth in the temple’s history. His service dates from 1911. He is assisted by Rabbi Beryl D. Cohon. Henry Gideon is musical director.

The temple sponsors five religious schools and a little theatre.

But what was the message from the past?
That they misspelled the Rabbi’s last name?
That banquets and pageants were part of the celebration?
That the Temple had five religious schools and what did that even mean?
That there was a little theatre?

I don’t think that any of that had specific consequence. Yet, on that day, did Rabbi Levi celebrate the 80 years of growth and expansion as the community had already moved into the Riverway location, the culmination of his dream while he also recognized that a dark cloud was moving over Europe at that exact moment? Did he even have a clue? I investigated further by going to the actual paper in which the above appeared (article is on page 3).

On page two of the paper, there is an article about the rabbi at Columbia University guiding the Jewish students not to despair. He reminded them that they are not the only minority group who has to deal with challenges. What caught my attention, however, was the article two stories below the Temple Israel article on page three about Albert Einstein receiving honorary membership at a Reform Temple in Philadelphia. His quote is the message from the past to us today:

“Happenings today throughout the world are bringing Jews more closely together and they realize their bond of union today more than ever before.”

There are parts of history we pray, hope, and plead  will never be repeated. And there are moments, happenings, in time that have the capacity to bring us closer together as Einstein recognized.

We are in such a time to realize our bond of connection in the Jewish community is more important and stronger than what could break us apart. May we fulfill the desire of Einstein and the many who followed that being brought closer together can happen in our own time.

Shabbat Shalom! שבת שלום

This Weekend at Temple Israel:

  • We celebrate Shabbat this week with Qabbalat Shabbat at 6:00 p.m. INSIDE in the Sanctuary. Register here to join on Zoom . Rabbis Bernard Mehlman and Ronne Friedman will honor our beloved librarian, Ann Abrams for her 39 years of service to the congregation and her retirement.  Ann will also offer some remarks.
  • Following the service there will be a light dinner and festive oneg full of regaling stories and songs celebrating Ann Abrams. The celebration will continue online on the same zoom link.
  • On Shabbat morning, we gather at 9:00 a.m. in the library for a short Shabbat service and Torah reading followed by a lively discussion of this week’s Torah portion. All levels and abilities are welcomed. Register here to join on Zoom.
  • Gather online to say goodbye to Shabbat with a lay-led Havdalah on Zoom at 8:00 p.m. See Temple Israel’s webpage for Livesteam options.

I continue to value the many comments you exchange with me through these Shabbat Awakenings. Share with me what you think. Your email goes directly to me!


Rabbi Elaine Zecher