- Posted by Elaine Zecher
- On June 14, 2019
- 0 Comments
Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings, our weekly reflection as we head into Shabbat.
Last night we held our Annual Gathering. It is a thrilling moment of the year to celebrate and reflect. Below are the words I shared with those gathered.
Martin Buber noted that with regard to Torah there are some words that lead the story. Follow them and you find key narrative components. In this week’s Torah portion and throughout the Book of Numbers, two key words, which are also homonyms, guide us. Nasa (nun, sin, aleph) and Nasa (nun samach, ayin). The first connotes journey and the second means to lift, to count, or to carry. There are so many stories in these words and this is the story of the Jewish people, the ancient Israelites and us today. (For a deeper analysis with more time, come to Torah study on Shabbat morning.)We have journeyed across the wilderness and carried the Torah as it lifted and inspired us toward the land of great promise.
The Temple Israel story contains these ideas as well, starting in 1854. Tonight, we journey back to just more than 100 years ago.
In the early part of the 20th century, Rabbi Harry Levi arrived to serve Adath Israel, which we now call Temple Israel. His determination to create a vibrant Jewish center elevated him in all aspects of his rabbinate. Rabbi Levi believed that this congregation could become a model of Jewish life that would help to prosper Judaism for generations to come. He wanted to ensure that the synagogue would “make good Jews.” (Becoming American Jews, pg 55) By this, he meant active, affiliated, and attached to the values and purpose of Temple Israel. He planned to make the Temple “the hub of local Jewish life, a center of education, fellowship, and sociability.” Our members embraced his vision. The synagogue grew in numbers and strength. By the 1920s, the leadership purchased a plot of land at the corner of the Riverway and Longwood Avenue to create what they called a Temple Centre. The first phase of a meeting house and religious school wing was completed in 1928. With its completion, the new structure began to fulfill Rabbi Levi’s dream of making Temple Israel the “hub of Jewish life in Boston.” Unfortunately, the Depression prevented the full blossoming of that dream which would have to wait. It would take almost fifty years for the sanctuary to move from Commonwealth Avenue to the new location. Other plans had to be put on hold as well.
We are one century later and it is time to return to that dream and move it forward. What will be the manifestation of our aspiration to establish Temple Israel as the central focal address for our mission of living Judaism together through discovery, dynamic spirituality and righteous impact? How will we grow our vision in our time and provide for those who come after us? How in this era might we launch ourselves as the Jewish hub of the hub?
These are the questions that keep me up at night and energize me to serve this congregation every day.
We have already begun to assert our place and potential in Boston and the greater Jewish community, while we continue to strengthen within.
- We welcomed thousands here and online in November. This became a reality because of the foundational relational work we have undertaken.
- Our Center for Adult Jewish learning has already attracted hundreds of folks, many from our membership but also from the greater Boston Jewish community.
- The Riverway Project, The Village, 50s & 60s, TILLI among others are all composed of those who belong to TI and those who associate themselves as part of the TI orbit.
- The Tent, our teen education experience draws from and partners with more than 7 area synagogues and is housed here at the corner of Longwood Avenue and the Riverway.
- Our congregation cooperatively works with more than 23 organizations, leveraging our resources to create exciting programmatic opportunities.
- During the High Holy Days, the #10Days10Ways online initiative, developed by our members, has already brought together over 1000 people from all over the country to engage in learning and doing social justice.
What all of this says to me is that we are primed to assert ourselves as a dynamic and creative force in this city as a central Jewish institution. Our wonderful book on Temple Israel history notes, “By the early twentieth century, Jews no longer needed to join synagogues to obtain burial privileges or participate in Jewish activities.” Their future “hinged on the ability to attract.” Ecclesiastes was right: there is nothing new under the sun. We now live in an era of “unbundled Judaism.”
This is why as we have a mission enacted through a vision as a way to rebundle and reconnect in new and different ways.
I am a firm believer in what the synagogue provides. It is where Jews are made, as Rabbi Alexander Schindler beautifully articulated. It is where we foster the teachings of Torah and the prophets that morality and ethics are foundational as a compass to live full and meaningful lives. The first Temple in Jerusalem had in it the name we still use, bayit-home. The synagogue remains the extension of our home, an actualized ideal of the place where love and acceptance pervade. This is Temple Israel of Boston. We need to be better. We need to be stronger in all that we do and have the potential to do. We must be a dynamic, innovative, and creative force now and into the future. The journey continues and together we will be lifted and carried and inspired.
We gather for Qabbalat Shabbat at 6:00 p.m. tonight. If you are unable to join us, live stream here. The Riverway Project (for 20s & 30s) has their monthly Soul Food Friday musical Shabbat Service followed by dinner, beginning at 7:00 p.m., please register here.
Torah Study begins tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. with a short service followed by a lively Torah discussion.
I appreciate your thoughts and reflections, please connect with me directly here.