It’s been a tumultuous couple of months in my community. My synagogue building is closing just as Miriam gears up for her bat mitzvah in February, leaving us anxious and excited all at the same time. How can I possibly be excited? This is a disaster! A tragedy of epic proportions! A logistical nightmare!
Actually, it’s not that bad. Because at the same time we find ourselves without a building, our religious community is finding its strength. We are re-energized by the potential, figuring out what works in our little Jewish world, and considering what we can do better.
Temple Kol Ami, a small Reform temple down the street from our current location, has offered us a home. Not as part of their temple, but as our own entity – a traditional, Conservative, egalitarian, participatory congregation. That’s a lot of adjectives for one little shul, but the description fits. At our core, we are a group who gather on Shabbat and holidays to pray and eat and talk together.
The prospect of a new home within walking distance of our most observant members is exciting, but we are not out of the woods yet. We need approximately 100 families to sign on if we want to make a go of it. I believe we will gather the families, but still, there will be roadblocks along the way, along with unexpected joyous moments.
The best part is that we are done crying about the change. We are taking our future into our own hands. I have been reading a fantastic book about the future of Jewish communities by Rabbi Elie Kaunfer, Empowered Judaism: What Independent Minyanim Can Teach Us about Building Vibrant Jewish Communities. In his introduction, Rabbi Kaunfer asks, “Can we shift from a mentality of survival to one of meaning?”
Our community seems to be answering, “yes.” And that’s why I am not distraught about the transition. This is what I want to teach my children. I want our family to help build this community. I want my kids to know what it feels like to believe in and create something new based on something we already love.
I wrote this Opinion piece for The Jewish News a week before we knew we might move to Temple Kol Ami’s building after Yom Kippur. I am proud of where we are going next. I have been living in a community of meaning, and I intend to help keep it strong.