As I sit down to write, I believe that winter has indeed ended (this time). It still amazes me that, like the weather, each season at shul is so distinctly different.
As spring seemed to arrive, we took out “drums and lyres” and played and sang at the Beit Café (special thanks to Cantor Barber, Curt Freedman, Dennis Gordan, and all our musicians). While we raised funds for our Jewish campers and enjoyed a gourmet breakfast (thank you Program Committee!) at the Nechamen/Chernick Breakfast, two great honorees spoke of synagogue life: Gene Baker spoke eloquently of daily services, and Dennis Gordan described his own fascinating journey, starting as the boy who lived across the street from the shul and growing into a true gabbai (someone who assists with the running of services) on Shabbat. As part of the festivities at our SKLC fundraiser, our honoree, Michelle Anfang, life-long learner, left no doubt that she would put her new lunchbox to great use! During the Purim Megillah reading on the big screen, I learned to adjust to having a tail (beware of Purim costumes!) and partied with other strange characters afterwards! Our pre-Passover Shabbat dinner would have still been just as great fun, even without that welcome respite from cooking in an about-to-be-chametz-free environment! Newcomers to our “Musical Shabbat” Friday night services marveled at their beauty, no less captivating for having their ticket-free, parking-hassle-free environment!
Our rising bar/bat mitzvah students have been giving our chapel a special aura on Shabbat mornings. We thank Gabrielle Zeller, Joshua Peck, Kayla Weiss, and Nina Katz for leading us through some difficult Torah portions, and celebrating with us afterwards on their bar/bat mitzvah days.
Meanwhile, our younger set prepared for “pizza and guitar” as they celebrated a great year of school and a great night of Shavuot!
And the treasured background rhythm of temple life continues, with our daily services (morning and evening), Just-Show-Up Shabbats, Lunch and Learn on Wednesdays, and Cuppa Joe on Sunday morning. On various Sunday evenings, late in the month, several members bring a special glow as they stop by for a few prayers and greetings at minyan after serving dinner to the less fortunate.
And we continue to plan for our future. As I write this, we are starting to structure plans as we work with our architect, Preston Scott Cohen, to consider our worship spaces, to search for ways to make our beautiful sanctuary feel comfortable for smaller groups and still work for large services. We also would like to make our chapel more welcoming and comfortable, and our Sukkah area more useful and flexible. By the time you read this, we will have had our initial meetings with our architect, and hopefully be working on the initial plans and schematics.
Unfortunately, though, not all of our hopes and plans proceed smoothly.
Perhaps you recall that we have been discussing our afternoon religious school programs with Sinai Temple. A joint task force, with members from both temples, has been meeting regularly through the year. We have hoped to explore ways to combine resources and to enhance our children’s educational and religious experiences. We thank our dedicated task force members: Iris Linson (chair), Stuart Anfang and Mallory Caplan (vice-chairs), Maxine Bernstein, Meredith Dragon, Erica Kaplan, Rabbi Amy Katz, Caryn Resnick, and Amy Wistreich (ex-officio, Paul Farkas).
In May, we were advised that the Sinai committee wanted to re-examine this process and its goals. After further discussions with Sinai, we have both decided to put this particular process on hold for a while, and so our May and June meetings were cancelled.
Despite the difficulties presented by our evolving modern society, our own religious school is excellent and continues to explore exciting educational ideas. One unified message delivered by all task force members surveying both schools concerned the dedication of our teachers and the excellence of our programs.
“Taking a break” (with the hope of coming back together soon) from this particular process does not mean “taking a break” from exploring ways to keep improving our religious school. In this continuing effort, we will seeking other re-sources in the valley as educational partners.
It is my conviction that we do need to work together with other congregations to share and enhance resources. We can all maintain our individual identities and missions while we help each other. Together – as a congregation and as part of the greater Jewish community -- we can maintain our strength and excellence while we plan for the future.
Meanwhile, we hope you are enjoying our summer. And please remember that no matter what the season, we at Temple Beth El are always open and always welcome you to “Just Show Up.”