For me, the High Holy Days this year were a wonderful experience. Sitting on the bimah and speaking in front of as many as 800 people could have been intimidating, but it wasn’t. Instead, it felt like I was having a conversation (however one sided it may have been) with friends and family. Having the opportunity to shake hands with, and speak briefly with, so many congregants reminded me of why we love this place. We were all there to pray together as community, to renew old acquaintances, to introduce new family members and to meet our members. I was especially proud to listen to the sermons of our wonderful rabbis. Each sermon highlighted what we love about them. And each of us, I think, has our own special response to what they had to share with us. We are all so fortunate to be part of Beth El as Associate Rabbi Amy Greenbaum expands her role and offers such meaningful alternative services; and we are blessed in watching and participating as our spiritual leader, Rabbi Alex Greenbaum, comes into his own as we grow up and grow older together.
I mentioned in my State of the Congregation address that I enjoy kibitzing with my friends during services. In case you were enjoying the same opportunity to kibitz while I was speaking (what’s good for the goose…) here are some excerpts.
- … What we didn’t realize, when we moved to the South Hills and joined Beth El, was that we had not just joined a synagogue, we had become part of a large, warm, engaging and special community. How did this happen? We were greeted. We were included. We were valued. We were asked to do things, and we said Yes. We took the initiative and offered to do things, to get involved, to volunteer. And with volunteering came friendships and community.
- … Beth El is known throughout the Jewish community for our high level of volunteering. And at Kol Nidre services we honored three special volunteers. The Hoffman Family Distinguished Service Award was presented to long time member Shirley Moritz, a wonderful woman who has volunteered for decades. The Alex Silverman Shem Tov Award was given to two volunteers, Miles Kirshner, who has been our public face, and Edie Yorke, who helps so much behind the scenes.
- … Beth El is very involved in the community. With the support of South Hills Jewish Pittsburgh, we have partnered with other South Hills community organizations to reach out to unaffiliated community members and to increase cooperation among all Jews and Jewish organizations in our area. One area of cooperation is our upcoming Torah Weekend featuring Rabbi Gershon Sizomo, rabbi of the Abayudaya Community in Uganda and a member of the Ugandan Parliament. Thank you to our Education VP Francine Rosenthal for helping to make this visit possible, and for reminding us that Jews come in all colors and from all parts of the globe.
In my next article I will update you on Beth El’s Centennial Celebration. 2017 will be an exciting time for all of us!