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Rabbi's Message (March 2022)

 

At Shabbat services on February 25, I asked those present to consider their role in recreating community here at Beth Hillel after two years of isolation.  I then opened up the conversation to others, and many ideas for how to do this were shared.   Here, I share a briefer version of my remarks and a list of ideas generated that night, with a few added later.  I invite you to add to this list of ideas by contacting me at rabbi@bethhillel.net.

In Torah portion Vayakheil, the Israelites are asked to supply materials for the creation of a worship space in the wilderness. The phrase “kol adat b’nai Yisrael,” “the whole community of Israelites,” is repeated a number of times in the parasha, implying that it would be a large-scale communal project.  Everyone, at whatever level they could participate or contribute, was involved.  

Rarely are we called upon for such an endeavor. 

In this Covid world, after almost 2 years apart from each other, it seems to me that the most urgent communal project we have as a congregation is the recreation of “community” itself.  We have been forcibly separated from our gathering space and from each other for too long. We need to come together now for the future of our community and for the future of the Jewish people.

Everybody staying home and participating from their computers was necessary and may still be necessary as we navigate more Covid variants and upticks in the infection rate.  But it cannot be denied that this has harmed our community.  

It is safe to be at Beth Hillel now.  We practice social distancing; we wear masks. We have a very high degree of vaccine compliance in our congregation. Our school has been meeting in person since September. We have never had a community spread here.   

And so, I would like to suggest that just as the creation of the Tabernacle in the wilderness was for “kol adat B’nai Yisrael,” “for the entire community of Israel,” recreating our Beth Hillel community is such an endeavor as well.  Each of us needs to consider what role we, personally, will play in getting people back in this building and in relationship with one another.

I then asked those present to share thoughts on what we can do to recreate our Beth Hillel community in the coming months and that those in leadership would listen and respond to ideas shared.  I suggested such topics as:

-reengaging in-person, 

-how we can still feel welcoming in spite of the security precautions, 

-how we offer a greater sense of belonging, embrace and welcome to newcomers, spiritual seekers, People of Color, and people with a variety of gender identities. 

Here are the ideas that were shared:1

Bring a friend/neighbor/teacher shabbat 

Kingfish outing July 10

Ravinia style music/picnic invite others 

Pair with another BHT family to do something (Random or chosen)

Game night

Speed "friending"

Have conversations

More learning sessions on LGBTQIA+ identities

Get together to walk together before services or on Shabbat 

Get together to make something 

Everybody come to services and the bar mitzvahs 

Pick up and drive home people who don't drive

Come to temple to make matzah ball soup together- Then everyone takes a portion home & deliver a portion to another member

Share/show and tell art projects & other hobbies

Song session 

Gardening project outdoors at the temple 

Plant pink flowers for Wayne

Surely, we will need people power to make these events happen.  Would you like to serve on a task force that makes these events happen?  If so, please contact me.

In the coming months, our Strategy 2025 team is going to be interviewing folks and doing focus groups to get more input on how we can rebuild and improve our communal life here at Beth Hillel.  Be looking for those opportunities.  In the meantime, let us take to heart the message of the TP that “the whole community of Israel” needs to be involved.  the Israelites ended up bringing “dayam v’hoteir,” “more than enough” materials for the creation of the Tabernacle.  It was such an outpouring of support that Moses actually had to ask them to stop bringing donations! (Ex. 36: 6-7) With your input and ideas, and volunteer energy I hope that this will be the beginning of  an outpouring of response from our community and on behalf of our community as well. 

Rabbi Dena A. Feingold

Fri, July 1 2022 2 Tammuz 5782