Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Va-Yeitzei: Entering a Season of Presence

When you read the book of Genesis, I mean really read it and look at the lives of its protagonists, one theme really stands out. They all lived difficult lives! All our patriarchs and matriarchs (including their friends, family members, servants, and animals) experienced their fair share of challenges, tests, moments of weakness, and errors in judgment. They were flawed people, just like us, and life was by no means easy back in those days.

In our Torah portion this week, we read about Jacob's travels. He has fled from his parents' home because he tricked his father into giving him his brother's blessing, and he's on his way to his uncle, Laban. On the way, God comes to him in a dream and says, "... All the families of the earth shall bless themselves by you and your descendants. Remember, I am with you: I will protect you wherever you go and will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you" (Genesis 28:14-15). Notice that NOWHERE in this blessing does God say that Jacob is getting all these things because he is such a perfect person! Nor does God say that the Divine protection is conditional, or that it will disappear if Jacob behaves badly.

Feeling God's Presence is not conditional, but this can be a double-edged sword. Doing the wrong thing won't make it go away, but it also means God is always aware of how we act. God can't make us be mensches. That's the beauty of free will. But there's still an expectation that we constantly strive to improve ourselves. We're not perfect, but we need to try to be better.

After Jacob's dream (the one in which he saw Led Zeppelin's famous "Stairway to Heaven"...), he wakes up and exclaims, "Surely the Lord is present in this place, and I did not know it!" (Gen. 28:16) Most of us feel the same way. We walk through life oblivious of God's Presence, and so we don't act as though God cares about what we do. People often misunderstand religion and chastise it for making people feel guilty about everything they do. But that's not the point of it at all! It's not that we should feel meek and humble, prostrating and apologizing every day of our lives. But we DO have to take ownership of our own actions.

It's true, our Biblical ancestors lived challenging lives. Today we've got wars, economic hardship, and relationships fraught with intrigue and drama. But we also have the potential for love, kindness, and caring for our fellow human beings. And the search for a relationship with God continues as well. Has anything changed since the time of the Bible? No, not really. And sometimes, despite all the struggles, that can be a comforting thought.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Tol'dot: Letting Them Down Off the Pedestal

It seems to be a staple of human nature to want to create heroes for ourselves. Whether it's a brilliant scientist, a mesmerizing musician, an explosive athlete, or a gifted writer; we all seek out people of exceptional ability to admire. And because we do this, it is so much harder to accept when they fall short.

The purpose of this blog post is not to chastise us for wanting to look up to someone. But we also should not wear rose-colored glasses, where we refuse to accept that they can make mistakes, or that they are human beings who are not flawless. When we do this, we give people license to break the law or act immorally, and then, when we finally realize how poorly they've acted, things may already have gotten out of hand.

The Torah warns us against this behavior. Several times, it clearly describes who the heroes are in its stories, yet it exposes all their flaws and weaknesses. The purpose isn't to jump ship, to look for better leaders. We know who our patriarchs and prophets are, we cannot abandon them. But we have to accept that they are human, that they are constantly prone to errors of judgment.

This week we see an interesting example, both of flawed leadership, and also people refusing to accept the fall of their heroes. Our Torah portion portrays Jacob, our ancestor, disguising himself as his brother, Esau, in order to fool his blind father and steal the blessing of the firstborn. Hardly a praiseworthy endeavor...

At the start of the story, we might be able to shift blame to his mother, Rebecca, who hatched the nefarious plan. But once Jacob is alone with his aging father, he, and he alone, is responsible for the lies that he tells. That is, unless you are one of the medieval rabbinic commentators, and you are seeking desperately to redeem Jacob and prove that he is a noble and righteous individual. Then you might employ a different strategy, such as the approach taken by the commentator Rashi, to bail Jacob out of the mess he has created for himself.

Twice in the story, Isaac asks if the man before him is truly Esau, and not an impostor. And twice, Jacob lies... Or does he? In Genesis, chapter 27, verse 19, Jacob responds to his father, "I am Esau, your firstborn." Rashi redoes the punctuation of this verse (and inserts a few choice words), so that the verse instead reads: "I am [he that brings food to you], and Esau is your firstborn." Hey, if Isaac misunderstood what Jacob was "really" saying, it's not Jacob's fault, right? And then, in verse 24, Isaac again asks if this is really Esau standing before him, and Jacob responds, "I am." Rashi again comes to rescue, and writes: "He did not say, 'I am Esau,' but 'It is I.'" In other words, Jacob said "I am me," and Isaac simply misunderstood what his son was saying.

These interpretations are a little far-fetched, to be sure, but I think it teaches us something valuable about Rashi more than about Jacob and Esau, and it teaches us something about ourselves. Rashi doesn't want to let Jacob falter. The text portrays him as a liar, but Rashi doesn't want to accept that. We sometimes do the same thing; making excuses for athletes who break the law or behave inappropriately.

Sometimes we have to put interpretations aside and live with the tension of a hero who makes mistakes. The Torah seems content to expose flaws in every one of the Biblical heroes, from Abraham and Sarah, to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. If the Torah is ok with imperfect protagonists, why aren't we?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Chayei Sarah: The Rumor of a Name

Have you ever noticed how rumors get started? One person says something ("The sky is falling!"), a second person corroborates ("It's true, I felt something fall and I'm worried..."), and by the time it gets to the third individual, it's practically a news story. And two minutes later you can read about it on Wikipedia as indisputable fact. You might be able to tell that I find this process pretty annoying.

You may be surprised to realize, however, that the same thing can happen in Torah study. This week we find one of my biggest pet peeves, and it's a nasty rumor that started nearly 2,000 years ago. In our Torah portion, we read about Abraham wanting to find his son Isaac a wife, so he sends his servant out to look for one. And many commentators will tell you that the servant's name is Eliezer. Why? Because in an earlier story, we saw that Abraham had a servant named Eliezer, so this must be the same guy.

But the text itself never calls him Eliezer! It irritates me to no end, because someone simply started a rumor ("Yeah, that's probably Eliezer, the servant from that other story"), another person felt the same way ("I agree, that's most likely Eliezer"), and two thousand years later, everyone is "certain" that it's Eliezer. If that's true, why doesn't the Torah call him Eliezer? In fact, the text goes out of its way to keep calling him either:

- "The servant" (Gen. 24:2, 5, 9, 10, 17, 34, 52, 53, 59, 61, 65, 66)
- "The man" (Gen. 24: 21, 22, 26, 29, 30, 32, 58, 61)
- "him"/"he" (Gen. 24:6, 10, 11, 12, 15, 18, 19, 33, 54, 56)

Look how many times the text refers to this guy! More than 30! And every time, it avoids giving him a name. If it's so OBVIOUS that it's Eliezer, why doesn't the text say so??

This teaches me two important things. First, rumors are annoying. When we assume, we miss out on learning for ourselves. The Torah is clearly trying to teach us something, and if we gloss over it by simply naming the poor guy and moving on, we've missed out on the intention of the Torah. We should instead be reading the text with our eyes wide open, sensitive to every nuance and intonation, and not allowing someone else to tell us how to read the Bible.

Second, what is the message of the Torah? Why is this servant unnamed? I'll offer one interpretation. Perhaps because he is not meant to be the focus of this journey. He has been sent on a great mission - to find a wife for Isaac, and thereby enable Abraham's lineage to continue - but he is simply a vessel in this mission. The emphasis is on Rebecca, the eventual woman who is chosen, and also on God, who is always present and guiding our footsteps.

Sometimes in life, the task is much greater than the individual. It's not always about us! It is a great blessing and an honor to be a vessel, a vehicle, for something more significant than ourselves. This story teaches us about faith in God, about the power of love, quite frankly, and about having a purpose in life. And by having the main character of the story go without a name, we also learn about humility and focusing on the task more than the individual.

Let this be a lesson to all of us, not to listen to rumors and to always keep our eyes and our minds wide open. Just because an opinion has been espoused for 2,000 years doesn't mean it's correct. Just ask The-Servant-FORMERLY-Known-As-Eliezer!!

Shabbat Shalom!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Va-Yeira: How Hospitality Happens

This past Shabbat at Ohev Shalom we dedicated our Saturday morning services to welcoming and honoring our new members. I would like to share with you my sermon from that service:

As you know, today is our New Member Shabbat. So what I thought I would do is show our new members how we approach Torah study here at Ohev Shalom. Right off the bat I’m going to tell you that the governing principal is to find relevance and meaning for today in the Biblical texts of our ancestors.

I wholeheartedly believe that we can find significant lessons in everything we read in the Bible. Sometimes through the stories themselves, sometimes through juxtaposing what we read with how society functions today, and sometimes by arguing and fighting with the text.

In other words, it’s not that we learn from Abraham, Moses, King David, and Esther how to live necessarily, that we should always follow their lead. Instead we see that reading the stories of their lives affords us the opportunity to examine our own lives. The most important message is: The Torah is inviting us to a dialogue. Engaging the Bible, and our ancestors, in conversation is a part of our heritage, and an essential part of our culture.

So let’s take a look. Today, in honor of our new members, I am going to focus on the issue of hospitality, and display for you two models of good hospitality and two models of bad hospitality. And I think we can learn just as much for our own lives from each of the four different stories.

We’ll start off with a model of good hospitality. Our Torah portion opens with Abraham sitting at the opening of his tent, and the commentators say that he was recuperating from having circumcised himself (and let me reiterate my personal comment on this from last week: yikes!). He sees three visitors approaching from afar, and he runs to greet them. It turns out that they are angels, but Abraham didn’t know that at the time. To him, they were just passing travelers, but he welcomed them into his home with open arms nonetheless.

He offers them food, he begs them to come and stay with him, and he and Sarah act as the perfect hosts. In fact, it’s such an impressive model to us that whenever a Jewish couple gets married, they do so under a chuppah, a wedding canopy, with openings on all four sides, which we say is symbolic of the tent of Abraham and Sarah, which was open to all. It’s a metaphor for welcoming in guests, for always having an open home to help others and share the warmth of our families with those less fortunate.

But it’s not just a model for our individual homes. It’s a model for our congregation as well. As a community, we should also be running to welcome visitors. We should have an open building so that new members, such as the ones sitting here today, will feel invited in, but also so that less fortunate individuals in our wider community will know that we are here for them as well.

And we are especially impressed with the hospitality of Sarah and Abraham when we juxtapose it with the model we see in the very next story. The angels proceed from the warmth of Abraham’s tent to the icy cold reception they receive when they visit Lot in Sodom. Sodom and Gomorrah, as we all know, are about to be destroyed, and seeing the way people behave in these cities, we understand why.

All the people of Sodom seem eager to hurt these visiting angels, without ever explaining why. But as jarring as this part of the story is, I find myself focusing on something else. When Lot tries to protect his guests, the people of the city yell back at him, “’Stand back! The fellow,’ they said (meaning Lot), ‘came here as an alien, and already he acts the ruler! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.’” (Gen. 19:9)

How sad it is that Lot, who has lived there for years, is derogatorily called “an alien.” Sometimes communities create a hierarchy, where those who have lived 50, 60, 70 or more years in the congregation perceive themselves as better than others. New people feel as though they aren’t welcome, or that they have to earn the respect of the community before they will be accepted. Such is not the case here at Ohe Shalom, where we try to welcome everyone, and there isn’t at all a sense of pecking order, of some people being “more” congregants than others.

Later on, after Sodom and Gomorrah received no bailout money and went bankrupt (to put it mildly), Abraham and Sarah travel through a land called Gerar. Abraham is worried that the people will not treat them well, and will kill him to get to his very attractive wife. So instead he has Sarah say that she is his sister. How many of us don’t face that same dilemma all the time??

But surprisingly, the people of Gerar are upset that Abraham didn’t trust them. King Avimelech quickly restores Sarah to Abraham, and gives him sheep, oxen, slaves, silver, and even says to him, “Here, my land is before you; settle wherever you please.” (Gen. 20:15) Sometimes we don’t know how we will be perceived when we move to a new place. But we have to give the locals the benefit of the doubt, they may surprise us! Abraham didn’t know what to expect, but it turns out the people of Gerar were more than happy to share their land with him, and welcome him in as a neighbor. And the same reception awaits our new members here at Ohev.

Our fourth story doesn’t paint Sarah or Abraham in a very generous light. After the birth of their son, Isaac, Sarah insists that Abraham kick out their servant Hagar, who has a son by Abraham, named Ishmael. Once again, we don’t learn how to act by following the example of our ancestors, but instead by challenging their decisions. We learn about hospitality by saying, “I might have played that differently.” We might have tried to make space for both wives and both sons, and we would have tried to carve out land and inheritance for both sides of the family.

But the most important lesson we learn here is; guys, don’t take two wives. It’s bad news. Nobody gets along, everybody fights, and all you do is create headache, heartache, and heartburn for yourself. We have the benefit of learning from Abraham’s mistakes, and this one is a biggy.

So once again, you’ve got your two models of good hospitality, Abraham and Sarah with the visiting angels and King Avimelech of Gerar, and your two models of less-than-ideal hospitality, the people of Sodom and Abraham and Sarah with Hagar. But ultimately, the message from all four stories is the same; you can learn a lot about your own life from the stories of the Bible. There are plenty of lessons, if we only take the time to investigate and let the Torah be our teacher.

Just looking at the four stories as a unit teaches us something, why are Abraham and Sarah in the good category AND the bad category? Because nobody’s perfect. Sometimes we’re on our best behavior, and sometimes we fall short. And I want to say the same to all our members here, new and... well, less new. We’re not going to be perfect as a community. We are going to be there for you, as a part of your lives and the lives of all your family members, but we may not always get it exactly right, or be there just on time. We hope that you will be understanding, patient, and sometimes even forgiving.

When I look at the stories in the Torah and compare them to what we try to achieve here at Ohev Shalom, I have to say that we measure up pretty well. We do hospitality quite well here. To all of our new members and our visitors here today, I want to say that you’ve come to a very warm and welcoming congregation. And just as the Torah invites us to dialogue with it’s stories, we invite you to join us on our journey, and help make Ohev Shalom an even more warm and friendly place.

I began by saying that Torah study for us is about finding meaning and relevance in the texts of our tradition. Right now, throughout the world around us, I see people searching everywhere for meaning and relevance. And what we learn is that the first clues to finding an answer lie in the words of the Torah, but the real solution is in the community we create.
The Bible helps us to examine our own lives and evaluate what we’ve created,
but only we can make meaning happen. Only we, when we come together as a congregation and extend that hospitality and warmth to everyone we meet, can achieve a life of fulfillment and value. And here at Ohev, we are already well on our way to creating that kind of community. Welcome to our journey, we are thrilled that you are joining us.

Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Va-Yeira: Can You Ever Really Take It Back?

Why does it seem that every time we turn around, there's another public figure trying to retract something he or she said? From GOP Rep. Joe Wilson to rapper Kanye West, it's easy to find countless newsstories about people who let their emotions get the best of them, and who say something spontaneous and stupid.

Of course, the initial story is always followed up with a public apology, aimed at rectifying the damage that was caused. But as we all know, it's hard to do that. It's hard to forget a vicious remark once it's out there, and sometimes it seems you would need an act of Divine Intervention to really get a do-over!

And indeed, we see an example of just that in this week's Torah portion. Our main characters, Abraham and Sarah have been promised a glorious future, with descendants as numerous as the stars in the heavens or the sands on the beach! But, it is difficult for them to believe all these assurances while they still remain childless. Not only that, but they're both pretty old, and time is running out…

Nevertheless, God again appears to Abraham and promises him that he will have a son within a year. Sarah, hiding in the back room, hears God's promise and laughs! She has a good chuckle, and then says to herself, "Now that I am withered, am I to have enjoyment – with my husband so old?" (Genesis, 18:12). God doesn't much care for Sarah's attitude, and tells Abraham about her irreverence. God says to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh, saying, 'Shall I bear a child, old as I am?'"

What's missing here? God repeated Sarah's words to Abraham, but mercifully left out her jibe against Abraham. In actuality, she said that Abraham was old, but God didn't want to pass on the insult, so God left it out! Not only does it avoid awkwardness between Abraham and Sarah, but it also keeps Abraham's spirits up so he won't be discouraged by Sarah's lack of faith in him. It's a beautiful sign of tact shown by God, and it demonstrates to us how powerful, and hurtful, words really can be.

Every once in a while (a LONG while...) we may get lucky, and God will step in and deflect the mean things we say. Most of the time, however, we have to take responsibility ourselves, and we don't have someone else, or Someone Else, to rely on. Public figures seem to learn this lesson every single day, as they try desperately to assure us the original statement was a mistake, and the apology is "really" how they feel on the subject.

The rest of us have the benefit of watching from the sidelines, and, hopefully, learning from these examples, Biblical and modern, how to be careful what we say!

Shabbat Shalom!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Lech Lecha (Sermon): Installation Speech

I would like to try something new. In addition to writing about the weekly Torah portion, I am going to try to post occasional sermons of mine, so that if you were unable to attend services, but were still curious to see what I said, you could do so on the blog.

I am going to start this series with my speech at the Installation service which took place this past weekend, Saturday, October 31st. Here was my sermon to the congregation after I was formally installed by Rabbi Louis Kaplan, Rabbi Emeritus of the shul:

I always tell my B’nai Mitzvah students that they have to start their speeches with a greeting and a thank you. I don’t want to risk being a bad role model with some of them in the room, so I’m going to start the same way:

Welcome! Thank you all so, so much for being here today. This is truly a wonderful day for Rebecca and me, and we are thrilled and honored to be sharing it with all of you.

Thank you especially to Amy Pollack and the Installation committee members for putting this all together; thank you Cantor Friedrich for being here even though you originally had a Bat Mitzvah to go to elsewhere; thank you Lou Stesis for your presentation earlier; thank you Rabbi Kaplan for your kind words and your wonderful installation; thank you to all my family members and dear friends who have come to share this simcha with us; thank you Mayor Gerner of Swarthmore for honoring us with your presence, and the members of SWIM (Swarthmore-Wallingford Interfaith Ministerium).

I would also like to extend a very special thank you and welcome to my good friends, the minyannaires. To all of you who come to our daily morning service, you make it one of the most enjoyable parts of my work here, and I love praying, learning, chatting, and eating breakfast with all of you. Thank you!

I know I should be used to this by now, but I still marvel at how often the Torah portion of a certain week fits beautifully into the occasion going on right then. That is certainly true today; we couldn’t have picked a better Torah portion for an installation weekend!

In the very first words of our parasha this week, we see Abraham setting out on the journey of his life. God tells him to leave his parents’ home, the land that he knows, and everything familiar, and set out for a new destination and a new destiny. In my phenomenal Torah study group on Wednesday mornings, we talked about this, and how scary it was for Abraham to leave these things behind. We cannot even appreciate fully today how leaving one’s land, which was crucial for survival, and leaving one’s relatives – who were the only support system available, used for protection, alliances, and defense – was really unthinkable in those days.

It was truly a leap of faith for Abraham, frightening yet thrilling all at the same time. Which it just occurs to me is basically how we describe Halloween, which is celebrated today: frightening yet thrilling. Though somehow I think it was a little different for Abraham…

AND, his wife had to leave her family behind and start over as well. We sometimes forget to mention how challenging this must have been for Sarah as well.

I think you can all see where I am going with this; namely that Rebecca and I are in a similar situation… minus the desert and the camels, of course. But move for us has been daunting yet exhilarating, and it involves new challenges and new adjustments, but also wonderful friends, a strong and vibrant community, and of course a World Champion baseball team (please God, let them repeat)!

But that’s not all. I want to point out something else. The Torah tells us that Abraham and Sarah (who were actually still Abram and Sarai at the time, their names hadn’t been changed by God yet), packed up their things, took their nephew Lot with them, and also brought along, “Ha-nefesh Asher Asu” – which our Chumashim translate as “the persons that they had acquired.” Literally, it’s actually more like, “The persons (or lives) which they had made.” Many commentators suggest these were converts, that Abraham and Sarah were history’s first missionaries. We don’t know exactly what this refers to, but regardless, it is clear that they were leaving with a whole caravan of folks.

And you know what occurred to me when I was looking at this? It’s not that Rebecca and I are setting out on a journey, and Ohev Shalom is the destination (much as I know that many of you like to think of your congregation as The Holy Land). We’ve gathered you up with us. You’re coming along for the ride, and we are all setting out on a journey together.

This is it, this is the beginning of our journey. It is a journey of forming relationships; a journey of being there for one another through simchas (the joyous times) and tragedies, and every lifecycle event in between; and it is a journey of creating community.

But this expedition isn’t about the destination. Even Abraham’s wasn’t really about the eventual arrival, which was perhaps why God didn’t tell Abraham the destination at the start. It is, instead, about the process. And in order for us to change, to grow and evolve, I would like to mention a few things which I hope to see us achieve here at Ohev as part of our process.

Here are five things which we have either started implementing, or hope to start soon. They also represent some of my observations of life at Ohev Shalom in my first three-and-a-half months here:
1. Our wonderful new cantor, Steven Friedrich, and I have started to reimagine the B’nai Mitzvah program at Ohev Shalom. What do we want to teach our children? What tools do we want to give them to make them engaged and interested Jewish adults? How do we help them combine their Judaism with other causes that matter to them? And how do we make their simcha a celebrated occasion for the whole community?
§ These are some of questions we have been asking and trying to answer. It is a work in progress, but we have begun.
§ One aspect I am passionate about is the Mitzvah Project. As a part of becoming a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, each child chooses a task relating to a Mitzvah, a commandment but also a good deed, an act of loving kindness. This is already being done, but now we want to figure out how that project can help the congregation or the wider community? How can the child come to see it as an expression of their Judaism, and make it something they can keep pursuing after the party is over?
§ In addition, the Cantor and I are working diligently to create a large group of Torah readers for the synagogue. We are hoping to keep most, if not all, our B’nai Mitzvah kids reading Torah long after their special day, as well as bring back any kids, young adults, adults, and seniors – anyone who has read Torah or would like to learn to read Torah, to become part of this new group.
2. I am also working to create a Gabbai Corps. Volunteers who will help run our services, some of whom are already working today. If you are already engaged in our services, or would like to become, we want to empower you to help run the worship service. As a group, the gabbaim will learn about why the services are structured the way they are, what prayers need to be recited, and all the skills and tools needed to make our tefillot run smoothly. We also hope to create camaraderie within the group, and build a core of service goers and service leaders for years to come.
3. Reaching out to our congregants everywhere, and even beyond our community, I am hoping to work with our Chesed/Mitzvah committee(s) to increase our outreach. They already do phenomenal work, and I am so impressed with their dedication. But are we getting to everyone who is homebound? Are we in touch with all of our members on a regular basis? Are there additional services we could be providing, programs we could run out of the synagogue building, or support we could offer people in their homes? It’s not going to happen overnight, but if we are serious about being a community, about relying on one another and helping each other through tough times, this must be a priority.
4. Cantor Friedrich has started his tremendous work with the school, and you can already see major improvements, and a lot of excitement growing among students, parents, and teachers. We will continue our efforts to revamp the school, to improve the curriculum, provide teacher training, offer parent programs, and keep our kids engaged and excited. The cantor and I have a lot of great ideas, and we are also working closely with the Jewish Federation and the Conservative Movement.
§ In addition, I have begun working with the adorable kids at Kehillah, the early childhood education program in our building. Jaimi Schaffer, the director, and I have a great relationship, and I hope to continue to create close bonds with Kehillah, and with the young families who send their kids there.
5. And finally, I can’t wait to revive the old Ohev Players. We have a stage here, people. It is crying out to be used. My wife will (perhaps somewhat reluctantly) admit to you that she has seen me perform in a Hebrew version of “Bye, Bye Birdie,” a.k.a. “Shalom Birdie” in New York. I’ve also performed in Fiddler on the Roof, West Side Story, and My Fair Lady, all of them in Swedish! (The Swedish Cockney accent from My Fair Lady is pretty hilarious!) But I’m still waiting for my English debut…
§ Here at Ohev, we’re not just all about religious services, education, and Social Action. This is our community, it should be fun, artistic, vibrant, and accessible to people of all ages. Performances on that stage are coming back, folks. Just you wait…

And those are just a few things happening here. We have more ideas and programs coming up as well, but honestly, that’s not even my main point. To make it on his journey, Abraham needed his wife first and foremost, but also his nephew, the camels, the goods, and last but certainly not least, the people who came with him from Haran. In this story, that’s you guys. This is your journey as well. It was your congregation long before it was mine, but now it’s ours together, and if we truly want to make it our very own Holy Land, we can do it. But we’ve got to do it together.

Thank you all SO much for welcoming us into your community. We feel like we’ve found a home here with all of you, and we can’t even wait for everything that lies ahead.

Shabbat Shalom!