Rabbi Allan Finkel
It’s been a remarkable summer for me, not just the part about stepping into the role as Rabbi and spiritual leader at Temple Shalom, but in watching and participating for the first time in the planning and mapping out of an entire year in the life of Temple Shalom. And the results are in our hands: A packed September/October Bulletin that supplants a summer’s worth of lovely and quiet Kabbalat Shabbat services… all this pent-up energy being released as we move into High Holiday season with our choir starting their rehearsals and Slichot soon at hand.
The delightful part for me has been in seeing how so many different threads are woven together and discovering that it is not one or two or a handful of people who create a year of “programs” for us to attend. Instead, my quiet joy is in seeing the number of people who have been stepping forward with ideas that we might explore within our Temple community. And not just the old regulars, but an interesting cross-section of our congregation and our community. This is a year of change, in so many ways.
I mentioned the word “programs” before, but with great caution and thus the quotation marks. “Programs” remind me of childhood experiences, perhaps at the downtown YMHA, where “someone” organized clubs or activities or whatever and we showed up, if interested. And if no one planned anything, we stayed home, lost interest, and moved on to other places and things. So, I don’t believe in temples and synagogues creating “programs.”
I prefer language that talks about us building or creating little communities here at Temple Shalom, where we, as individual members, chat with each other about things we’d like to do or that interest us and then say “Hey, we should ask someone whether we can do that” and then we take ownership of the idea, create the working group that gets it going, and invite members and friends from outside to join us. And in so doing, we start from our common values and our common interest in being here – as part of a liberal Jewish community – and, well, we build lovely little sub-communities around all these extra things. And there is no limit to what we might consider. It can be just about anything, inside or outside the sanctuary, unique and creative spiritual experiences, social action projects, book clubs, adult ed and family activities, or simply things that are fun to do, and decide we’d like to do together.
These are the ways that we will transform Temple Shalom over time. We can love the services, the liturgy and the music and the shared experiences of communal prayer, but these are “sitting and standing side-to-side experiences.” Wonderful for sure, but there can be so much more, when we also find ways to turn sideways and get to see each other face to face.
In this Bulletin, you’re seeing September and October, but I’ve seen the whole year, and Wow! As Rosh Hashana approaches, let’s make a commitment to curiosity for the year ahead, to support and check out the new ideas that are coming forward from our members and to deepen our community experience of Temple Shalom.