Thursday, October 1, 2015

Doris White's Yom Kippur Appeal 5776

L’Shana Tova.

I have been chosen to give the Yom Kippur appeal for two reasons: (1) I was absent from the meeting when the speaker was chosen and (2) my fellow board members thought I might be a good candidate because I left Adas Emuno for a few years and then returned. In truth, I feel honored to be standing here. I can’t think of a more supportive place to help me overcome a bit of nervousness at speaking before a packed house.

Yes. I did leave this congregation for a few years. Sometimes we feel as I did that the person and the place are no longer a good fit, and I did feel that way. My daughters and I joined temples in their towns, and it was fine, but not the same. After a year or two, I met Eileen Cohen who said, “Come back. Give it a try. We have a wonderful rabbi. Drop by one Saturday for Torah study.” It took me a few months, but one Saturday I decided to see this wonderful rabbi. The rest, as they say, is history. Rabbi Schwartz had me from his first thoughtful comments, and I became a regular at Torah study. Then I attended Friday night services and a few special events, and yes—dear listener—I rejoined and became a member of a vibrant, thoughtful, intellectual, musical, inspirational congregation. Shortly thereafter my daughters and their children came with me. When Cantor Horowitz arrived last year, the picture was complete. We here at Adas Emuno call Rabbi Schwartz and Cantor Horowitz the dream team, and we are so lucky that they are here. Everyone who was at last night’s Kol Nidre service can attest to the words and music that took their places in our hearts and our minds. Sadly, Rabbi, another sports legend passed away yesterday, Yogi Berra, with his own way with words, but his legacy is pure gold—no asterisk there.

We can’t close our eyes to the fact that synagogues in our area are closing: a few years ago Congregation Sons of Israel and shortly Gesher Shalom in Fort Lee. My talk will not concentrate on asking you to keep Adas Emuno alive; I’d like you to witness with me that we are alive with great energy, great spirit and great heart. We cross the generations as is reflected in our board, we are inclusive of everyone who wants to be here, and our welcome is strong. Our board works diligently to keep abreast of the times and offers activities that we want you to join: upcoming a walking tour of the Lower East Side, a fund raising event for our religious school called Treats and Treasures which will take place on October 29th at Modiani Kitchen in Englewood with prizes ranging from restaurant and store gift cards to a week at a vacation home in North Carolina. There will even be a cooking demonstration given by someone I know very well. We have our fingers on the pulse of our members; we are thinking and planning speakers, songfests, celebrations and prayer. The whole megillah.

Did you know that we celebrate the holidays with joy and music? Please join us in the Sukkah on October 2nd for performances by our youngest to our most mature members. Then on October 4th we offer subs in the Sukkah followed by our annual Simchat Torah service which spills out of our doors as we read the last words of the Torah and then begin the ancient ritual of starting over with the first words of Genesis. Please join us; we need your voices and your hands as we raise the Torah high.

Did you know that this year’s Torah study theme is Jewish ethics? Come and join us Saturday mornings from 10-11:30. Rabbi Schwartz discusses each section with commentary, psychology, archeology, history and politics. Even on the coldest winter mornings the talk is lively and stimulating with the many different perspectives offered by our members and guests. Everyone is welcome.

Did you know that we have a Poetry Garden the second Sunday of each month from 7-8 PM? Those of us who love the sound of words gather in the garden when it is warm and in the social hall when it is not. We read our favorite poems, classic and current, or listen to what others read or even share our own poetic thoughts. This past Sunday as the darkness fell, we recited some children’s poetry , were introduced to a new poet, Chanah Bloch. Each month we are surprised and delighted by poetry. Come and join us.

Did you know that we have a lively adult education program that has brought us folk dancing, scholars, comedians, archaeologists, members from Israel’s IDF? Please enjoy these special times with us.

Did you know that we have an engaged and dedicated staff of Hebrew teachers under the direction of Cantor Horowitz and an enrollment of excellent students in grades K through confirmation? We even have a Tot Mitzvah program for 2-1/2- to 4-year-olds that meets three times in the fall and three times in the spring in conjunction with the holidays. I invite you to take a walk or ride past our Hebrew school at noon on Sundays and see the faces of the children as they greet their parents with talk of what they learned and enthusiasm for the several projects the school offers.

Did you know that the B'nai Mitvahs in this temple are such meaningful experiences for our students? I know because three of my grandchildren stood on this bimah as Bar/Bat Mitvahs in the Spring. I invite you to attend the next such event so you can join with me in watching as this temple, these children and their families, this “dream team” inducts our children so meaningfully and so joyfully into the rituals, obligations and beauty of coming of age in Judaism. I was passed the special Torah, saved from the Holocaust in Czechoslovakia, and then passed it to my children and kvelled as they passed it down to their children, my beloved grandchildren. There are no words for this; you have to come and experience it yourselves.

Did you know that 10 students are continuing their Hebrew education past Bar/Bat Mitzvah as they meet with the rabbi in confirmation class? This year they will explore and discuss the many issues and decisions facing Jews and their connection to and support of Israel: topics such as the Iran situation, the Palestinian state conundrum, capital punishment, euthanasia. What a range of thoughtful topics for our young people on the threshold of becoming adults.

I also invite you to share with me the feeling of Shalom when I enter the sanctuary for Friday evening services. Each Shabbat I marvel again at the wisdom of separating the work week of tension, hassle, racing the clock with the ushering in of a time for rest, reflection and prayer. I often enter bringing with me the problems of my week and I feel them evaporating as the songs and prayers offered by Rabbi Schwartz, Cantor Horowitz and our congregation take their rightful place in my priorities. Rabbi Schwartz always provides his thoughts on what is happening in the world outside of ourselves, providing thought and even action as I go through the following week.

Perhaps my favorite part of the service is the Mi Sheberach prayer when we all join hands and send our healing thoughts to those who need them. We say the prayer together with joined hands and then give each others’ hands a final squeeze. I hope you will make time on a Friday night to join us and share in this healing communal spirit.

So we are alive and well and residing at 254 Broad Avenue in Leonia, New Jersey. We are privileged to be here with our dream team, our families, our friends, each other. Please take a minute, look around and absorb the worshipful aura in this sanctuary. Please think of this sharing as you consider your donation for this Yom Kippur appeal, and think of how your donation will support all the excellent happenings that make Congregation Adas Emuno such a special place.

I will end with a personal story. This summer, when her brothers and cousins were at camp, my granddaughter Stella asked me for a sleep over. What could be better? Of course I said, Yes. Then she asked me what we were going to do: I said: we would get manicures and pedicures, eat dinner and see a play in New York, and go to Shabbat services. She looked at me, but she knew I was serious. And so on a hot summer night in July, we did just that. Cantor Horowitz had brought her guitar and her lovely voice into the garden, and we sat on chairs around the lovely pond—thank you Rabbi and Fred Cohen. After the service was over, Stella said, “Bubbie, that was really nice. I love the way Lance sings the prayers and is so into it.” The next morning as were heading out for the manicures and pedicures, she said, “You know, Bub, I’m really glad we came back to your temple. It’s so heart to heart.”

Please open your own hearts and help us to keep this great Adas Emuno heart beating. Thank you.

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