Greetings from President Sharon DeFala
My all-time favorite Beth El event
Close your eyes. No, I guess not yet; wait until after you've read this paragraph. Picture your favorite time you have ever been to Beth El. The smiling faces, the warm hugs, the people who know your children and are happy to see them, the food, the laughter, the music. Give yourself a moment and picture it.
When was it? A simcha for your family? A comedy night or gala? Saying good-bye to a Rabbi or a member family? Installing a new Rabbi, or welcoming new members? A regular weekly Shabbat morning?
At the end of this year's auction, I had a deja-vu experience of happy, glowing members coming up to me and saying "this was the best event we have ever had!" The music, the laughter, the sense of community, the food, which of course includes something sweet at the end.
I have not had such a positive and warm reaction from members since... well, since Rabbi Paskind's installation - remember David Morgan got us all up and we danced in a huge circle around the sanctuary? And the speeches made us laugh and cry, and then we all had a fabulous meal together where we were all in a hurry to greet each other with hugs? "What a simcha!" Lucia always says, and she is always right.
Remember last year's gala when we bid a fond farewell to the Fish-Bieler family and we danced to Sruli and Lisa's klezmer music, and laughed with Randi and Sean McDonnell in the sanctuary? And the speeches made us laugh and cry? And we all congratulated each other on what a deeply connected community we are?
We feel it at every bar and bat mitzvah - when the children we have watched grow from pre-school, through Ein Kelohanu and Ashrei all the way into adulthood. We glow and k'vell in each auf ruf and baby naming as if that baby, that bride and groom, the machetunem, was our own. Because they are our own. We may be a small community, but that is our strength. There are no strangers. There are only new friends, and families. Each time I see a new face at Shabbat services, I know that I have to make my way over quickly if I want a chance to introduce myself, because otherwise they will be swamped and I won't have a chance to say Shabbat Shalom.
It's not to say we don't have challenges. We definitely do have our challenges - we are not large or wealthy, our building and properties desperately need attention and repairs, and we always need more members. These are problems, sure, but they are manageable ones. Things that can be patched.
The part that can't just be patched, our true foundation, is our ruach and connection. Luckily for us, that is our bedrock.
So, what's your favorite Beth El event? I'll tell you mine: whatever is coming next!