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The Vision Campaign

"Renewing Space, Reflecting Spirit, Ensuring the Future"

Here are some new architectural renderings of the proposed renovated and expanded Congregation B’nai Israel. A larger version and other images are on display in the lobby.

Highlights Include:

dot Seven New Classroom Spaces dot Dedicated Chapel 
dot Gathering Area to Socialize dot Refurbished Sanctuary
dot Youth Lounge dot Upgraded Infrastructure
dot Renovated Front Entrance
sx and Lobby Area
dot Accessibility to All Areas
sx of the Building

   And Much More!

COMING TOGETHER FOR B’NAI ISRAEL ON SHAVUOT

Shavuot, the Festival of Weeks, is the second of the three major festivals with both historical and agricultural significance (the other two are Passover and Sukkot). Agriculturally, it commemorates the time when the first fruits were harvested and brought to the Temple, and is known as Hag ha-Bikkurim (the Festival of the First Fruits). Historically, it celebrates the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, and is also known as Hag Matan Torateinu (the Festival of the Giving of Our Torah).

As a congregation, we are enormously grateful for what we have all during this past year. We are truly on the threshold of re-building B’nai Israel. We continue to work on the design and the financing necessary to realize our ‘Vision’ but a gap remains that we just have to get over. Just like our forefathers & foremothers we need to pass over the gap. In truth we hope to jump the gap altogether.  This gap has been created by three factors:

  1. the need to do the project once and to do it right.

  2. the need to finance a portion of the building renovation and expansion.

  3. the need to take advantage of the Vision Campaign to include the repair of our roof, external re-pointing of our building and other infrastructure items that we did not address until we knew what we were doing regarding the renovation.

Ultimately, we do not wish to violate the integrity of our plan to not only renovate but also to expand and better serve our membership. Let us take advantage of summer season and of the celebration of the giving of the Torah that Shavuot heralds: leaving slavery in Egypt, gaining our freedom, and preparing to receive the Torah. As members of an extraordinarily generous congregation, we understand that we have asked a tremendous amount from our members this past year. We are truly aware that people may feel that every time they turn around we are asking for a different donation.

 

In a sense this is true.  We also understand that not everyone will able to contribute to everything. However, we are so committed to making this the best congregation in the country that we simply cannot let the gap we are facing prevent us from realizing our ‘Vision.’ We cannot let the gap stop us. We need to have the faith to bridge the gap.  Here are some ‘pass over’ strategies for jumping that gap:

  1. Accelerating payment of five year commitments: cash on hand will reduce the amount that we will ultimately be required to borrow.
  2. Accelerating payment will also permit us to earn additional interest on the cash we have on hand, further reducing indebtedness.
  3. Adding a 6th year to current five year commitments would add up to 20% to the 3.9 million dollars that has already been pledged.
  4. Adding any additional amount to a gift that has already been offered.

Anything you can do to help us bridge the gap will help us maintain the quality and integrity of our design.

If you can catch the spirit of the holiday, please call or email our finance and development director Howard Bloom at 336-1858 or e-mail me.

Howard Bloom
Finance and Development Director

FACILITY OF THE FUTURE PROJECT

Since the congregational meeting on January 25, we have accomplished a lot of the preparation and investigative work that needed to be done before we could begin the final design phases and actual building and renovating.  Unfortunately, the Temple does not have a comprehensive set of plans that show all the details of the building and grounds, so much of this had to be developed by the appropriate resources. Engineers have been dissecting the facility and looking at our systems and surveyors have been studying the property.

On February 10, 2006 Rabbi Daniel Freelander met with Bernie Jacobs, Rabbi Jim Prosnit, George Markley, Amy Rich, David Wenchell and Luise Burger to share his insights on our plans for addition and renovation. Rabbi Freelander serves as Vice President of the Union for Reform Judaism. In addition to coordinating all of the Reform Movement’s efforts in formal and informal Jewish education, Rabbi Freelander has developed a strong interest in synagogue architecture and published an article in Reform Judaism magazine entitled “Why Synagogues Look the Way They Do.“  His travels for the Union have also taken him to many buildings that, like ours, were originally designed by Percival Goodman.  Some of those buildings have been renovated and some look as they did when first designed in the 1950’s.  He’s also a talented musician (part of the singing group Kol BeSeder) and a good friend of Rabbi Prosnit’s.  He was pleased to accept Jim’s invitation to look over the plans and walk through the existing building on the afternoon prior to the recent Shabbat Shira concert.  Rabbi Freelander’s comments and observations were shared with our entire committee.

 

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We have engaged Kuchma Corporation as our construction manager for the preconstruction phase. Phil Kuchma has already been beneficial in dealing with the City of Bridgeport. On March 2, Phil was able to set up a meeting of all the appropriate Bridgeport City officials to look over the plan and design with Dehar Associates (our architects) so that we can know what they will expect and allow as far as any code and safety issues. This meeting included approximately eleven officials from Bridgeport, a major accomplishment by Phil. As of January 1, 2006, there have been some major changes in the building codes, so it was a timely meeting for all involved in the project.

Unfortunately, the time lag between when bulletin articles are written and when you receive your bulletin does not enable us to keep you up-to-the-minute on developments in the fast-moving project.  If you have any questions or suggestions, please call the Temple and the appropriate person will get back to you. 

We are still planning to begin construction around the first week of July, depending on holiday situations with contractors, etc. So we are moving forward during this exciting time! It will be something truly special to see the first sign of actual construction.


Congregation B’nai Israel: Passing Over The Gap!!

The story of Passover is the foundation story of the Jewish people. In fact Jewish demographers tell us that more Jews celebrate Passover or, at least, attend a Seder, than observe any other Jewish custom or ritual. Passover is a time when we recognize the blessings we have and when we correspondingly show gratitude for what we have achieved. It is a family oriented holiday and we are a family oriented Temple.

As a congregation, we are enormously grateful for what we have all during this past year. We are truly on the threshold of re-building B’nai Israel. We continue to work on the design and the financing necessary to realize our “Vision” but a gap remains that we just have to get over. Just like our forefathers and foremothers we need to pass over the gap. In truth we hope to jump the gap altogether.  This gap has been created by three factors:

  1. the need to do the project once
    and to do it right.
  2. the need to finance a portion
    of the building renovation and expansion.
  3. the need to take advantage of the Vision Campaign to include the repair of our roof, external re-pointing of our building and other infrastructure items that we did not address until we knew what we were doing regarding the renovation.

Ultimately, we do not wish to violate the integrity of our plan to not only renovate but also to expand and better serve our membership. Let us take advantage of this Passover season and of the redemption that Passover heralds: leaving slavery in Egypt, gaining our freedom, and preparing to receive the Torah. As members of an extraordinarily generous congregation, we understand that we have asked a tremendous amount from our members. We are truly aware that people may feel that every time they turn around we are asking for a different donation.

 

In a sense this is true.  We also understand that not everyone will able to contribute to everything. However, we are so committed to making this the best congregation in the country that we simply cannot let the gap we are facing prevent us from realizing our “Vision.” We cannot let the gap stop us. We need to have the faith to bridge the gap.  Here are some “pass over” strategies for jumping that gap:

  1. Accelerating payment of five year commitments: cash on hand will reduce the amount that we will ultimately be required to borrow.
  1. Accelerating payment will also permit us to earn additional interest on the cash we have on hand.
  1. Adding a sixth year to current five year commitments would add up to 20% to the 3.9 million dollars that has already been pledged.
  1. Adding any additional amount to a gift that has already been offered.

If you think that you can help with any of these possible pass over gap closers, we will be able to bridge the gap by achieving the real quality and integrity of our design. If you are in the Passover spirit, please call or email our finance and development director Howard Bloom at 336-1858 or email hbloom11@yahoo.com

Howard Bloom,
Finance and Development Director


Keeping the Promise
Kol Nidre 5765/2004
Rabbi James Prosnit

Ashreinu, mah tov helkeinu mah nayim goraleinu u mah yafa yerushateinu.

How good is our portion, how pleasant our lot and how beautiful our heritage.

There has been much written, and in the last ten days, no doubt much spoken about this year that marks the 350th anniversary of the arrival of the first Jews to America. I am certain that many rabbis throughout the land in all streams of Judaism have used these Holy Days as a chance to reflect on our remarkable story. For in the years since those twenty-three arrived in the city of New Amsterdam, America has emboldened each generations dreams and lived up to our most ambitious hopes.

Part of the beauty of American Jewish life of course was the spirit of tolerance that greeted each generation of Jewish immigrants. George Washington had written to the Jews of Newport Rhode Island that the United States Government "gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance" and for the most part America has kept that promise.

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The freedom, however, was not only from the persecution and deprivation experienced in their countries of origins - no many of the new arrivals rejoiced in the freedom they found from the authoritarian nature of the Jewish community back home. Rebecca Samuel wrote in a letter to her parents in Hamburg, here "anyone can do what he wants. There is no rabbi in all of America to excommunicate anyone." (Sarna 44) Contrary to their life in Europe, there was no religious or civil authority that required Jews to belong to the Jewish community. In the new land religion was voluntary.

And as they grew in number they would be able to choose from a number of synagogue communities if they chose to affiliate at all. If a group or individual was dissatisfied with its congregation they could resign and create a new one. By the way, you could always tell the breakaway synagogues, because they tended to put the word Shalom in their name. That old congregation! Why it had lots of politics, coercion and strife, join Temple Shalom and find peace and harmony in its gates.

George Washington had written to the Jews of Newport Rhode Island that the United States Government "gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance" and for the most part America has kept that promise.

It was in the 1850's that, the story of Bridgeport's Jews began to find definition. In fact, one hundred and fifty years ago this coming July, B'nai Israel was founded - as a burial society. The handful of earliest Jews to Bridgeport may not have lived with any affiliation, but they wanted to die with one. They came together to purchase property on Kings Highway in Fairfield, what I'm sure was distant farmland in those days, and there established sacred ground to bury their dead.

Four years later, seventeen families would receive a charter from the city and officially become Congregation B'nai Israel, the first synagogue in Fairfield County and the third in the State of Connecticut. Growth would be - slow. Again, since there was no outside authority that required belonging and no sanctions against those who didn't participate some Jews felt no need for connection.

There was no building and the itinerant rabbis, all recent immigrants who spoke little English probably understood little of the blessing and challenges of their new land. Services would be held in lofts, stores and people's homes. In fifty years, by 1909 we had grown only from seventeen to thirty-five households, but change and transformation was in the air. The waning influence of orthodoxy was exemplified by the purchase of the Reform movement's Union Prayer Book and no surprise, in that same year a group that preferred more traditional ways broke away and formed Congregation Rodeph SHALOM.

 

 

Two years later in 1911 we joined the Union of American Hebrew Congregation with dues of one dollar, held our first Confirmation Service, and that small group of Jewish families showed their confidence in their future with the construction of their first synagogue home a couple of miles down the street at the corner of Washington Avenue, just across from the large Episcopal Church. The Jewish community had arrived. The ceremony of dedication for what would be come known as the Park Avenue Temple was a gathering of joyous solemnity.

The mayor of Bridgeport and Christian clergy joined congregational members as the oldest Jewish religious organization in Bridgeport moved into a home worthy of its tradition and history. Raise your hand if you remember the woodcarvings, cathedral ceiling and grandeur of that small but sacred sanctuary. (By the way you can still see it, it's now the New Hope Missionary Baptist Church).

My hunch, however, is that even with a new beautiful building the changes underway did not come easily. The minutes tell an intriguing story: November 7, 1912, Rabbi Thorner to wear suitable cap and clerical robe. Two months later, January 12, 1913 by a vote of 18-9 the minister, Rabbi Thorner was to wear cap and robe. February 16, 1913 Rabbi Thorner refused to wear cap and robe. June 13, 1913 Rabbi Thorner to leave by September 1. Rabbi David Levy would succeed Rabbi Thorner and at least in the beginning he wore a cap and clerical robe gown.

The mayor of Bridgeport and Christian clergy joined congregational members as the oldest Jewish religious organization in Bridgeport moved into a home worthy of its tradition and history. Raise your hand if you remember the woodcarvings, cathedral ceiling and grandeur of that small but sacred sanctuary.

Menorah from the old B'nai Israel
on lower Park Avenue

Ours is a rich and fascinating history. Played out I am certain in community after community throughout the country. In the next decades the congregation would experience sustained growth and rabbinic stability. But it was not until the post world War II period that the next transformation occurred. A revival took place for Jews and all Americans, not so much in religious beliefs, but in the belief in the value of religion. For the first time family would say while we may not choose to attend services all that often, we choose to belong to a community that shares our identity, our faith and values.

In that spirit with membership growing, Jews leaving Bridgeport for the suburbs and the small building filled to capacity such that, High Holy Day services took place in the Klein Memorial Auditorium, the congregation decided to move from lower Park Avenue to our present location. Percival Goodman the renowned architect who would best define the suburbanization of the American synagogue was hired and the congregation undertook the ambitious task of raising $600,000.

Goodman would ultimately design fifty-four temples in twenty states. His buildings were marked by three innovations that showed the new post war synagogue culture: A spacious parking lot, a distinct separation of the sanctuary from the school wing and moveable walls in the sanctuary so that the worship space could be small enough for the Sabbath, but large enough for the High Holy Days.

 

As it turned out for some synagogues even the smaller worship space was far too large. But according to Professor Larry Hoffman, the space was not necessarily designed to be filled. Goodman realized that even Jews who did not attend worship wanted to be proud of the worship space they did not attend.

He created semi-circular seating patterns to convey more intimacy with the bema, windowed sky lines and always an ark as the focal point, to give the people a sense of being at Sinai when in the presence of the Torah scrolls. (in Synagogue Architecture in America, images Publishing). Jonathan Sarna in his recently published history of American Judaism writes that in post war America "one thousand synagogues and Temples were built or rebuilt ."

He said, "each building campaign conveyed a message of life and hope. It projected an aura of religious self-confidence, especially where a synagogue crossed into the suburban frontier to display the symbol of Judaism where the Star of David had never previously penetrated. It aroused a spirit of religious activity, enthusiasm and mission even among people who rarely attended worship services themselves. The building of a synagogue excited a high level of religious energy."


First day of Religious School 1962

"...each building campaign conveyed a message of life and hope. It projected an aura of religious self-confidence, especially where a synagogue crossed into the suburban frontier to display the symbol of Judaism where the Star of David had never previously penetrated..."

Our leaders fifty years ago understood the realities of their day and their vision has served us well and we thrive today on that legacy. Their foresight enabled this congregation to grow from under two hundred families in 1950 to almost nine hundred at the turn of the recent millennia. But we grew not just in numbers, we grew in purpose and mission.

A unique partnership of clergy and educators Rabbis Martin, Shapiro and Sher, Cantor Gilbert and Bob Gillette along with a strong and committed laity enabled each generation to stand on the shoulders of those who came before it, to adapt when necessary, to build when appropriate and to aspire to do great things so that succeeding generations would be the beneficiaries of the choices that they made.

  That has been the guiding spirit that makes me so proud to be the rabbi of B'nai Israel and I think makes most every one of you proud of it too. That spirit has encouraged and enabled us to dream more deeply about the nature of this community and the nature of our Jewish lives. When it was time to learn more about texts and tradition you agreed, when it was appropriate to reframe our worship experience you said give it a try and now you've shown up each week in increasing numbers; when we said we could care more about each other you stepped up in prayer and deed to be a better more responsive caring community.
When it was time to learn more about texts and tradition you agreed, when it was appropriate to reframe our worship experience you said give it a try and now you've shown up each week in increasing numbers; when we said we could care more about each other you stepped up in prayer and deed to be a better more responsive caring community.

So tonight another dream to lay out before you. Mark Schiff mentioned it on Rosh Hashanah, but let me add some thoughts. But before I go further, let me pause to beg a little forgiveness, especially from those who are new to B'nai Israel.

This is the fifteenth, High Holy Day that I have spoken to you. I believe with all my heart that these days and this night especially, is not a time for solicitations. Some of you remember well growing up in congregations with numerous Kol Nidre appeals and have often expressed appreciation for a culture centered on prayer and not fund raising. Yes, over the years I have spoken about the importance of Tzedakah in general; there was a time when we asked you to help JFS prepare for the arrival of Russian immigrants or for the Federation to intensify its campaign specifically for security needs in Israel or for our Habitat Houses.

But in fifteen years I've never asked for us. Tonight I do, because I belief so strongly that it's our turn. Batter's up! It's our generation's chance to do the same thing that those who came before us did in 1911 and 1958. Was their commitment to this community stronger? I doubt it. Did they have more discretionary income? Definitely not. Did they better understand the power and the importance of observing sacred times in sacred space? Perhaps.

 

Those who immigrated, who wandered may have been looking to build anchors for themselves and for their children. The uncertainty of some of their journeys may have led them to cherish more strongly a synagogue home. But may I suggest that anchors these days are no less important and that there is a need to seek a place where connections to other Jews may be shared and proximity to God may be felt more profoundly.

The synagogue has become the heart and soul of Jewish life, its core. This is a place for all seasons. I believe it's important that funerals of our congregants take place here. This is a place for life and death joys and sorrows. In the past three days in this building we've said good-bye to two wonderful women. Tomorrow we'll remember many others who died this past year - some who were our shining pillars. But there is something about mourning a mother or wife or grandmother in this place where other life passages have occurred that puts death into a broader perspective and I believe helps us, in a healthy way come to terms with the nature of the loss.

But in fifteen years I've never asked for us. Tonight I do, because I belief so strongly that it's our turn. Batter's up! It's our generation's chance to do the same thing that those who came before us did in 1911 and 1958.

Was their commitment to this community stronger?
I doubt it.

Did they have more discretionary income? Definitely not.
Did they better understand the power and the importance of observing sacred times in sacred space?
Perhaps.

I love to officiate at weddings in this sanctuary, especially when one and sometimes even both in the couple grew up here. There is nothing more magnificent than to stand here and see a beautiful bride walk down the aisle. Light streams in and everything is illuminated. It's as if the building smiles.

And speaking of smiles, week after week, families tell me that they experience one of the greatest days of their lives when they see their son or daughter on this bema, leading the congregation as Bar or Bat Mitzvah. Parents look up at this dressed up adolescent standing at this pulpit and see their kid in a totally new light. This moment has power and significance for the entire family.

Each spring angels appear in this place. Our confirmands in white robes glow and sing and lift us up in ways that are timeless and transcendent. They connect us to that first class in 1911 and they reassure us that the Jewish future is safe and secure in their arms.

Our nursery children feel something special when they walk into this room. I see in their eyes that they intuit something of this room's holiness. When non-Jews come to visit, be it one of the local parochial schools on a field trip or a guest at a life passage event they come to understand that their search parallels ours, and that there is more we share in common than otherwise.

 

Places are holy. Jacob found out when he was running away from home. He awoke from his dream and said wow God was is in this place and I, I didn't know it. But we need not be like Jacob and have to awake from a dream to understand the sanctity that has for so long been present here.

But this holy place needs our loving touch to ensure its magic and majesty. I could go into the detail, but since it's not the stuff of flowing sermonics, let me just give a few broad strokes. I hope you'll read about our needs and plans and join other forums to hear more and to discuss your participation. But simply, know that each Sunday our Religious School meets in every available space except the coatroom - and I'm told that's coming.

The Cantor and I share our offices for adult learning. Rabbi Greene would be willing, but his is too small. Know too that on Tuesday and Thursdays our middle school students sit in classrooms that the nursery vacated an hour before. We wouldn't accept this in our public schools; if Jewish education is a priority we shouldn't accept it here.

But simply, know that each Sunday our Religious School meets in every available space except the coatroom - and I'm told that's coming.

The Cantor and I share our offices for adult learning. Rabbi Greene would be willing, but his is too small.

Know too that on Tuesday and Thursdays our middle school students sit in classrooms that the nursery vacated an hour before.

We wouldn't accept this in our public schools; if Jewish education is a priority we shouldn't accept it here.

Confirmation Class of 5764/2004

Read about a brighter and fresher entry way and social hall, not to glitz up the place for catering but so we can have a space for an oneg Shabbat or kiddush that's not a darkened foyer and so that congregants can feel good about hosting their relatives and friends.

And consider a flexible chapel space, the current one is too small and too uninteresting and this main sanctuary while still functional no longer feels like the one that evoked the pride that it did in the days when Percival Goodman first designed it. We need accessibility too throughout the building so people in wheel chairs or on crutches can open the front door when Leroy's not around, so that a child with a disability can access the second floor of the Religious School or the BIFTY lounge and so that beloved past presidents like Charlie Fried and Arnold Tower can ascend the bema and hold a scroll as Kol Nidre is chanted. There must be no barriers to anyone in a sacred space.

To achieve this it will take you and your willingness to give us the resources to do it. After all Yom Kippur is about seeing and seeking holiness through sacrifice. The primary ritual of this Day of Atonement in biblical times was the offering, the willingness of the ancient Israelites to make a sacrifice, to bring to the Temple both an expiation, a sin offering and an offering of

 

support. Jewish worship was integrally connected to the offering. One would not show up at the Temple in Jerusalem without a gift in hand.

The Christian community has continued that practice. Jews instead have gone to a system of dues. And while its nice not to have to pass the basket at each service, there is something powerful and tangible about making a weekly offering. Christians go to church expecting to give. Part of the spirituality of the Catholic mass or Protestant service is in the very act of offering. Since we write checks to the synagogue office before the Holy Days or before the December 31 tax deadline, when we come to synagogue we think about getting, not giving. How often have we heard someone say, I didn't get anything out of services? That strikes me as being the wrong vector. It's appropriate to think about what we bring.

But the beauty of a building campaign is that it enables all of us to both give and get. As Jonathan Sarna said in his history of the 350 years, each time Jews built and bettered a synagogue it aroused a spirit of religious activity, enthusiasm and mission even among people who rarely attended worship services themselves. The enhancement of sacred space creates a high level of religious energy." That is our opportunity and our challenge as well.

To achieve this it will take you and your willingness to give us the resources to do it. After all Yom Kippur is about seeing and seeking holiness through sacrifice.

Why should we do this? Not just so we can have a better looking facility. No it is to preserve our patrimony. It's so we can ensure the vitality of our congregation and respond to the changing needs of Jewish life: the way Jews today meet and greet, pray, learn and celebrate.

And because a place like this has transformative power. It enables us to zoom throughout time to make the Jewish experience part of our own experience. Here we can better feel a connection to Jews of every generation -- those that stood at Sinai and those enslaved in Egypt; those that worshipped at the magnificent structure envisioned by Solomon, and those that went into exile with the prophets, rebuilt the Temple with Ezra and Nehemiah and later still cleansed it alongside the Maccabees.

When the Jerusalem Temple gave way to the synagogue we joined Hillel studying at the skylight, we sat in golden buildings in Spain and Italy and in little shuls in the Ukraine. In those places sometimes we danced with the Torah and sometimes we carried the scrolls in our arms as we fled the fires of persecution that engulfed them. Here in America, for 350 years mostly in peace and prosperity we've continued the journey building and reshaping our identities around Temples from Charleston to the Lower eastside to

 

Bridgeport. And here we've traveled along Park Avenue to this very place.

For forty-six years, here in this room and for 146 years as the people of B'nai Israel Bridgeport Jews have worshipped together. They've done so not because of coercion, but because they understood the importance of being with others Jews, for their sake and for the sake of the Jewish people as a whole. They, as we, chose to be part of a sacred community and voluntarily committed themselves to work for its betterment. We can feel the echoes of their prayers and their hopes and their yearnings as Jews in this city.

They beckon us not only to preserve this sanctuary, which we hope to be able to do, but to continue their legacy, to stand on their shoulders. Like every generation of parents, they hoped that their children would be better than they were. Not just better off, but better. They prayed to God that their children would have greater accomplishments, a higher vision and loftier goals than those they were fortunate to achieve in their own lifetimes. As your Rabbi I often feel the eyes of Rabbi Martin and Rabbi Sher watching me, and encouraging me and you to achieve a greatness for our community than even they were unable to dream of.

It's so we can ensure the vitality of our congregation and respond to the changing needs of Jewish life: the way Jews today meet and greet, pray, learn and celebrate.

Consecration 5764

Fifty years from now on Yom Kippur I firmly believe that at this pulpit a rabbi will be reflecting on the richness of four hundred years of American Jewish History and almost two hundred years of this Temple. Some of you may even be here. And I believe that rabbi, she or he will be praising the wonderful legacy that our generation bequeathed to them, even as they were being urged to meet the new challenges of their day.

And they'll know that they were standing on our shoulders, even as we remember those who stepped up and gave us this place. A place were Judaism is taught and lived, where the voice of tradition debates the demands of the present, where individuals find structures and role models for their Jewish living where God the Holy One of Israel is addressed most closely.

 

The Torah teaches that when God instructed Moses to build the tabernacle, the portable sanctuary they carried in the wilderness, God said, "and let them make me a sanctuary so that I may dwell within them." Commentators wondered about the sentence structure. Why build a sanctuary so I shall dwell within them - wouldn't it have been more likely for God to say, build the sanctuary so I may dwell in it, in the building itself. But they new better, as do we.

It is the physical act itself of building a sanctuary of caring for a sanctuary of being a sanctuary that causes God to dwell within. It is our actions, our joining together to make this place holy that brings us connection to the Divine. Tonight I ask you to keep the promise of those that preceded us, to enhance their vision, to dream deeply and to help us build for the next generation.

   


 
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