Now that we’ve settled in to writing 2017 on our checks and notebooks, it’s time for another “New Year.” Judaism, as you may know, has several—this time, we mark the New Year for the trees on the holiday of Tu B’Shevat. This is not a holiday found in the Torah but one that helps us recognize the importance of putting down roots and watching them grow.
Tu B’Shevat and Our Relationships
For me, I connect Tu B’Shevat with my relationship to our congregation. Our family, like the greatest of redwoods, has weathered storms, survived droughts and difficult times yet we continue to thrive when nourished by the spiritual connections that we’ve made to Congregation Beth Torah.
Of course you can be Jewish and not belong to a shul. In fact there are approximately 7 million Jews in the United States and less than half of these Jews are affiliated with a congregation. So, why belong to a synagogue?
Certainly, many people belong to synagogues because they provide specific services that they can’t get anywhere else. For example, baby namings, religious school, weddings and funerals, pastoral care in times of trouble, or the opportunity for adult education. Some members belong to a shul because of their commitment to social action. Others are looking for friendship and camaraderie. Still others are away from their immediate families, so they seek out their Jewish family within a community.
The word synagogue means a “place of assembly,” an English translation of the Hebrew words “beit knesset.” It is the place where Jews come together, to be part of a Jewish community. More importantly, it is the vehicle whereby generations of our people have pursued the perpetuation of the Jewish people.
Why Should You Belong to a Synagogue?
Synagogue is not only a place to learn and a place to pray, but it is also the embodiment of an ideal. A belief that there shall always be a significant Jewish presence where you live.
Why should YOU belong to a synagogue? Because by belonging to a synagogue—
Maybe you’ll feel a presence that lightens your heart.
Maybe you’ll hear Rabbi Zelony explain a Torah portion that adds richness to your life.
Maybe, at a magical moment during the High Holy Days, a niggun (a spiritual melody) will touch your soul.
Maybe you’ll see your child or grandchild take his or her first aliyah and then read a Torah portion.
Maybe you’ll feel the warm hand of the rabbi, or a congregant, reach across a hospital bed and assure you that everything will be all right.
Maybe you’ll stand at a graveside and hear the rabbi explain the meaning of your loved one’s life to your friends and family.
Maybe you won’t experience any of the things I listed, but you will take pride in knowing that what others have started, you are helping to perpetuate!
Belonging to a Congregation not only assures the perks of membership, but, more importantly, belonging is a commitment to the institution of American Jewry. Assuring the future of Judaism should be a source of pride and a sense of responsibility.
We welcome your continued membership, your continued support and your continued commitment to the promise that there will always be a home for Jews (whatever their background) at Congregation Beth Torah. I look forward to perpetuating and growing these traditions with you. And, thanks for belonging!