We are affiliated with the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the association of Conservative congregations in North America.
Passover: One of the holiest holidays of the year, that isn’t one of the typical High Holidays the world thinks of. In some ways, it’s even more significant: by centering on the Jewish people’s enslavement and freedom from Egypt, it reflects all of Jew’s exiles, Diasporas, and prosecutions. Passover is a message for us not only to never forget what happened to us back then, but also to never condone those atrocities happening to other people (that’s Megan’s take on Passover, anyway).
Essentially Passover is about community, our community. The Jews in Egypt were enslaved together, freed together, and wandered the desert for 40 years, together, as one community looking for the Promise Land. We may bicker, disagree, philosophically discuss, heatedly debate everything under the sun, but we are still one people united by our blood and history.
But where is the community in Congregation Beth-El? Congregation membership has been decreasing for the past decade (or more), and our Hebrew school will be extinct. We do have smaller events, like last month’s Sisterhood humantashen Pillow making, the Murder Mystery Night, and the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra, but these events cater to a small subset of older adults, (those over 50 years old) and not the general broader community feeling that we desperately need.
Community can be revived and sustained- we’re proof of that. The Jews are one of the most unique cultures for having such strong ties to our traditions and people despite the destruction and global Diaspora we have experienced. It took effort to preserve the language, traditions, and values, just as it will take effort to rebuild the community at Beth-El.
A community needs children, and in them lies our future. And while there are many different steps we can take to rebuild our Hebrew school, we first need to provide new families with a community they would want to join.
We celebrate Passover with a Seder, and alongside the prayers of the Haggadah are instructions on eating and drinking. How do Jews celebrate a holiday? By eating. We eat a Passover Seder, a break- fast for Yom Kippur, Chanukah and Rosh Hashanah meals. We eat certain foods on certain days for certain symbolic representations they hold. Eating together creates community, sometimes in more powerful ways than praying together does. It’s not just Anthropology that teaches how food intrinsically links a community, it’s obvious in our own Jewish traditions too.
These past few months have seen a flux of different Rabbi’s, and they each came with different ideas. Some we liked, some we didn’t. But regardless of the individual, there was one idea that really stood out to Megan: having community Shabbos dinners. What better way to build a community, (open to all people from all ages and walks of life), than having a lovely meal to invite them to.
With any idea there are struggles, but struggles are only insurmountable if you let them be. Not everyone keeps strictly Kosher, so to make a meal that everyone would feel comfortable eating, cooking in Beth-El’s kitchen could be an option. Food could be made Thursday night if someone can’t prepare the food on Friday during the day. If the kitchens can’t be used, maybe a home that does keep strictly Kosher can have others prepare food in their kitchen. And as we can’t think of all the possibilities at one time, we should be open to discussing different ideas from anyone.
There was a time when people got together to schmooze and cook. When Friday night meals together were a foregone conclusion, and when members of a temple knew the homes and lives of everyone else because they interacted with them outside of Shabbat services (read the book “Relational Judaism”). Let’s bring that time back. Let’s make a community out of Congregation Beth-El, keep our rituals and prayers, but give our members more to involve themselves with. Let’s make Congregation Beth-El not just another temple, but another home.
We have the adults, we have the older generation, but now we need the younger generations.
From one generation and the next one, we wish you Chag Sameach, Happy Passover, and hope to see you all soon.
-Barbara and Megan (those who wrote this), Jesse and Glen (those who tag along for the ride).