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LOOKING BACK - LOOKING FORWARD: An Awesome Beginning & Thank You

Dear Friends,

As we move more deeply into summer we enter the book of Deuteronomy in our cycle of Torah readings. Devarim, as it is known in Hebrew, offers words from Moses encouraging the Israelites to prepare for their future by taking a look at their past. Inspired by Torah, we’d like to take a moment to reflect on the first year of our rabbinic transition to a unique way of filling one leadership position with two rabbis in leadership. We remain very excited with this new model.

Firstly, we give thanks for the privilege of working with one another, of working with Adva & with our staff and our Board and with all of you. The goodness, energy, generosity and talent offered by Beth Israelites is indeed inspiring and makes for a vibrant, dynamic, caring community. We are both pleased with the first year of sharing rabbinic leadership and hope that you have enjoyed the benefit of our new model. We’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback.

It has been a year, like most, where there are simchas (joys) to celebrate and sorrows to hold. Rabbi Nathan has worked with lay leaders to strengthen tmicha and Rabbi Linda has revamped the “Spiritual Nourishment” support group to help with the sorrows. We have both enjoyed teaching and service leading throughout the year. Rabbi Linda is grateful for her close relationship with Adva and the Hebrew school and for the privilege and pleasure of working with B’nai Mitzvah. We are thrilled that we had seven teens continue with us as “madrichim”, assisting in the Hebrew School, staying in community and learning with both rabbis. We have loved supporting the new outreach programs - Tot Shabbat and Let’s Move. We are both excited to be planning the “DOROT” intergenerational program with Adva and others for next year. Rabbi Nathan has enjoyed meeting you and building his own relationships with our members. He loved heading our retreat committee and building that positive experience for the group. We both love working with you on Jewish learning and on tikkun olam. We are grateful to be working with one another and with lay leadership to keep doing what we do well while we explore and experiment with new models in all directions.

There is a great ease between your two rabbis, a mutual respect and enthusiasm that has bolstered each of us as we journey with you. In the coming years, we hope to capitalize further on this extraordinary structure that brings diversity, deep relationship and history to the table. We hope to carve out more time to cultivate the partnership and to challenge and grow with one another in ways that benefit BI further.

We are also aware that in the wider world, the past year has been tumultuous politically and that the Jewish community is in the midst of profound changes. The PEW research study on American Jews (now five years old) found that most Jews feel tremendous pride in being Jewish, while at the same time, the institutional structures that helped to hold the community together (Jewish Federations, Jewish organizations, Synagogues) do not hold the same appeal for today’s younger Jews that they did in the past. So things have shifted. Rabbi Linda and some of our longtime members remember how we grew rapidly in our first 8-10 years in the new building. Some veteran members, at the time, were afraid we would become too big! As economic conditions changed and as the Jewish community changed that dynamic shifted and now we are working to reach out to those from a generation that is less likely to affiliate. We remain a strong, small synagogue and in some ways our more intimate size is an asset. Yet, we, like you, want to share the gift of this community with a wider cohort.

This moment of change is a challenge and opportunity for Beth Israel, and a challenge where we believe our Reconstructionist orientation is a strong asset. This is not the first moment that a Jewish community has needed to reshape and reinvent itself in a changing ethos and environment. As we head into the summer and beyond, we look forward to working with the strategic planning committee, the board and with all of you as we explore the ways we’d like to evolve as a community.

Thank you for creating a community that is welcoming, inclusive and engaging. Blessings for a peaceful, soulful, healing summer.

Your Rabbis

Thu, September 19 2019 19 Elul 5779