From TBA President Laura EJ Rose

Hillel taught: “Do not separate yourself from your community.”

Each of my sons was born on a Friday just before Shabbat. This was not a fact that loomed large for me and my husband at the time. In fact, prior to the birth of our first son, I don’t recall ever celebrating Shabbat as a two-some. On that first Friday evening, we were too caught up in the magnitude of re-orienting our lives around our new baby to even notice what day of the week it was. After a whirlwind of visits from grandparents and well-wishers, the sunlight began to fade, Peter ran home to build a crib for our early arrival, and the baby was off for tests and procedures. I was alone.

As I began to consider the enormity of motherhood, a gentle knock at the door rescued me from full-blown panic. An elderly couple making volunteer rounds offered me a pair of tiny, battery-operated candles and a copy of the blessings should I care to make Shabbat in my room that evening. Stunned, I thanked them and then remembered the form I had completed prior to my hospital stay indicating to staff that our family was Jewish. And I cried. I cried at the overwhelming realization that in such a lonely moment, I had only to light a few candles in order to connect with the collective strength of a global Jewish community. I was not alone.

Feeling Jewish means something unique for each person, but this is only the beginning of what it means to be Jewish.  Historically, we see ourselves as a covenantal community bound to God as well as to each other in the form of the Jewish people. It is very hard to be Jewish by oneself. The “Just Jewish” existence creates a disconnection from what has been the core Jewish experience for thousands of years - community.

At Temple Beth Ami we find our own individual and unique place within the Jewish people spread throughout the world, and here we form a new link in the chain of Jewish tradition for future generations to inherit. We educate youth and adult alike in all things Jewish. We experience friendship. We rejoice in each other’s times of joy, and console one another when we face the loss of a loved one. We come together to address concerns of Jews worldwide, and we work together to improve the nature of our local community.

As Jews, we are blessed with rituals and traditions that can sustain us on life’s journey, but we do not have to make that journey alone. We come together as a community to recognize that even if we don’t have children of religious school age we still have an obligation to educate others. Even if we aren’t about to have a bar/bat mitzvah or wedding, our role is to create an environment in which these life cycle events gain meaning. Even if we are not in mourning it is still important for us to support those who have lost a loved one. There are things that we can’t do by ourselves, and by joining together our strength becomes larger than that of any individual.

It is my sincere wish that in this New Year 5778, that you consider strengthening the role that our community plays in your life. At Temple Beth Ami we are endeavoring to create a culture where members feel welcome in their spiritual home, a home that meets their needs and encourages them to contribute as active participants in a sacred community. I invite you to celebrate your commitment to our collective future.