Friday, January 4, 2013

Adassers, Assemble!

From the pages of Kadima, the newsletter of Congregation Adas Emuno:

A Message From Our President

Dr. Lance Strate

Adassers, Assemble!

All right, I admit it, I'm a bit of a comic book superhero nerd (you can ask our fellow congregant, Annette DeMarco, whose husband own a comics shop in Teaneck). But did you know that it was two Jewish teenagers from Cleveland, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, who created the character of Superman? First appearing in 1938, he was their answer to the Nazis' racist and anti-Semitic claims about the Aryan superman. Our Superman was a true national hero, growing up in rural Smallville, moving to the big city of Metropolis as an adult, working as a newspaper reporter in his secret identity, on both fronts fighting for truth, justice, and the American way. Like Moses, his life was saved as an infant when his parents sent him away in a rocket just before the destruction of the planet Krypton. This makes Superman the embodiment of the immigrant experience of that era, a true alien, an orphan cut off from his old world by violent, destructive forces, adopted by his new world and forced to assimilate by hiding his powers and creating a divided identity.

Clark Kent became his public face, and like all immigrants he was a bit clumsy and awkward, having trouble fitting in, and going to great lengths to hide his ethnicity in trying to present himself as an average American. Immigrants could only feel free to truly be themselves, to relax and embrace their ethnic heritage when they were no longer in public, but in the privacy of their homes, and in the company of their landsmen. For Clark Kent, the freedom to cut loose and reveal his unique abilities and talents, his differences, came when he put on his native costume and put his alien abilities to work in the service of others in his other identity as Superman. And just as Jewish immigrants typically had Hebrew names as well as English ones, Superman had a Kryptonian name, given to him at birth, Kal-El, which sounds much like the Hebrew words for Voice of God, or possibly All That is God.

Over two decades after Superman's debut, two other Jewish comics creators, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, launched Marvel Comics, with characters that include The Thing from the Fantastic Four, who grew up on Yancy (aka Delancey) Street on New York's lower east side, an old, working class Jewish neighborhood, and Spider-Man, a Woody Allen-type with webs. And then there was the Avengers, the subject of a major motion picture earlier this year, a team of superheroes led by the revived World War Two hero Captain America, created in 1940 by Kirby and another Jewish comics creator, Joe Simon. The membership of the Avengers was subject to frequent changes over the years, but the basic concept held true: Working as a team, the heroes could overcome threats that would overwhelm any one of them on their own. Stan Lee had a penchant for purple prose, and especially alliteration, and this is true of the rallying cry of this comic book team, which was Avengers, Assemble!

So now you know why the title of this column is Adassers Assemble! And admittedly, I'm being a bit redundant, because adas means assembly (our congregation's name means assembly of the faithful), but then again maybe not. Just because you're a member of an assembly doesn't mean that you always are assembled, even when called. Even on the High Holy Days, when most of us are gathered together, we never quite get all of us all in one place all at the same time (another case of divided identity, like Superman and Clark Kent).

But that's all right. Different teams can assemble at different times, and for different purposes. Some of those teams we call committees. For example, we have committees devoted to ritual, to social action, to the religious school, to adult education, to membership, to buildings and grounds, to our internet and publication activities. And we have committees to help organize events and fundraisers, such as the Adas Emuno talent show we have planned for April 20th, and the yard sale we hope to hold this spring. And maybe you've been willing to help, and just needed someone to ask? Well, I'm asking. Please help us out. Be a hero. We need your participation, your unique abilities and talents, as well as your financial support. We can't do all that needs to be done on our own.

There is much that needs to be done, and so much more that we can get done if we work together. It takes a team effort to plan and carry out our worship services (working with our wonderful clergy), our educational programs (in conjunction with our terrific teachers and religious school director), our social action activities, and all of the great musical programs, speakers, and special events that we have set up for you. We need your help to get the word out about all that we are doing, all that we represent as a congregation, all that we have to offer to prospective members. We also need to organize fundraisers to help make ends meet for our religious school and our synagogue, and we need to work together to make much needed improvements to our aging buildings and infrastructure. 

We need you to be heroes, to lend your talents and abilities and resources, on behalf of our congregation. And we need our heroes to assemble, to participate, working together to make this the best Adas Emuno it can be. Will you answer the call?

If you're unsure of how to get started, just ask me, or one of our board members, at services, or on a Sunday morning, or email us at, or call us up and leave a message at 201.592.1712. Adassers, let's assemble, and together realize all of the great things that none of us can accomplish on our own.

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