As we move forward into 2018, so many unknowns loom before us as our country and world head into seemingly uncharted territory in governance and behavior. In facing these challenging times, B’nai Israel, representing Jewish values and continuity, provides for us the kind of context Judaism has been committed to throughout the ages: an oasis from the stresses and tensions of life, and perspective on principles that matter, i.e. caring, compassion, commitment to truth, fairness, provision for the needs of the most vulnerable and so many more, seemingly neglected and rejected in decisions and behavior we see and read about in the Media.
As CBI continues its mission as a caring community committed to learning and teaching Judaic principles that promote wellbeing for all participants in society, an important factor for all of us to face is that Jewish community continuity is grounded in and contingent on its members accepting and honoring the principle of dor l’dor, “generation to generation”; the children learning from their parents become, literally or metaphorically, the parents that teach the next generation of children…and we continue and grow accordingly.
For CBI in appreciating the gifts of the generation passing the baton, we do well to consider losses we have sustained that must be replaced as the next generation steps up. One rewarding transition to watch and be energized by is how Mary Schwartz, our long time leader in all capacities of our children’s education, over the years, has helped guide our new generation of youth education leadership led by Amy Lerner. The enthusiasm in the process of this new emergent leadership is palpable and energizing for all of us.
We are looking to expand our lay leadership now in the capable hands of Linda Chene on Friday evenings and Martin Gewing on Saturday mornings to include those already attending these services and others not yet regulars on Shabbat but who could become involved even to the point of sharing in service leadership. Anyone can “do it” given the availability of recordings and instruction that I have made of our services…good for learning to lead as well as to use as a means to learn more about the service and to feel at home in singing along.
The importance of generation to generation became very tangible this past year with the losses of some people that were keys to our community in various ways: Don Bond’s passing was palpably noticed when we fell short of a minyan on Shavuot when we gathered for Yizkor. Don never missed a holiday service and had he been alive we would have had the minyan that morning. We will miss his leadership on the board and on a variety of committees. I valued him as an elder that was forward thinking and open to change which is typically challenging for older folks.
Shabbat morning took two hits in the last months with the sudden passing of Marty Weissman and recently Janice Reek. Marty always added flavor to the minyan, particularly for me, with his penetrating challenges to various subject areas of the weekly Torah portion. Janice always provided the most amazing and unique baked treats that she concocted for the Kiddush. She never baked anything more than once and each was a taste treat that reminded you how special Shabbat is. It occurred to me we could double attendance just by reminding folks that we always enjoy a scrumptious Kiddush thanks to the delicious and varied noshes that folks bring to enjoy after the service. Myra Binstock, after we lost Janice, to whom she always gave a ride, began to honor her by baking the kinds of goodies she was known for. When you think of Syd Nazarenko you think of her delectable stuffed eggs. When you think of Martin Gewing, you think of his wonderful tuna salad. Janice evokes this appreciation of Gastronomic Judaism, and we miss her dearly at the Kiddush.
And, this month we will be remembering and celebrating Beryl Cohen who was another force for so much good in the programming and activity of CBI over the years.
News of the rather sudden passing of Lionel Jacobs this last month has jarred a number of us who know how much he did over the years in leadership of CBI. Every time I look at the floor in the social hall, particularly when something falls on it, I think of Lionel who spearheaded the project for constructing it, along with the refurbishing of the chairs in the sanctuary, and so much more in terms of CBI infrastructure (by the way, he did not care for identifying B’nai Israel by its initials, and I always keep his preference in mind each time I nevertheless use the initials!). Lionel’s death reminds us that we have also lost folks to moves elsewhere.
The challenge is not to replace our losses, for each is uniquely irreplaceable, but for newly interested and previously dormant folks to step forward and share their unique interests and passion while augmenting the numbers, i.e. with the Shabbat minyan, that we need, to assure our community’s continuity.
I am so grateful to our co-presidents, Jan Leventhal and Marc North for their own unique care for the safety, wellbeing and dynamic programming under their leadership. They cannot do it without the strong support of the board, and the board in turn needs broader participation to allow us to grow in strength and activity.
These needs to fill are not just good ideas for people to consider; they are at the heart of Jewish identity and purpose, in guaranteeing the fulfillment of dor l’dor, “generation to generation” and perhaps more significantly, this particular year and beyond, to provide a safe and nurturing oasis to enable us all to help each other weather the varying storms that seem to be stirring in so many ways, whether from Nature, or from human activity gone sideways, from the perspective of Judaism and its commitment to honor God by the way we treat God’s creation.
I look forward to your stepping up and forward in doing your part to assure our vibrancy this year and beyond, and I wish you all a happy, healthy and safe New Year 2018.