Celebrating with our neighbors

Who doesn’t like a party? And the folks from the B’Nai Shalom synagogue had a wonderful reason to celebrate – it was the 100th anniversary of the founding of their congregation.

            People gathered from far and wide to enjoy good food and wonderful fellowship as the congregation reflected on its past and prepared for a bright future. With a tiny Jewish population in northeastern Connecticut, this congregation has a strong tradition of lay leadership. They rely on volunteers to lead worship and community outreach. They enjoy a strong “can-do” spirit which allows them to work and worship together. In recent years, a rabbi comes once per month to lead services, offer education, and encourage them in leading lives of faith.

            It was my pleasure to be a guest at the festivities and have the opportunity to offer greetings from my congregation to theirs. In this angry and contentious era, it is vital to remember that there is more that unites us than divides us. Together we can serve a God of love and hospitality as we reach out to God’s people as our neighbors.

            Rabbi Eliana Falk wrote this prayer for the occasion:

Dear God, we are thankful for Your gifts and blessings that help us…

  • To be grateful for the ability to learn and understand, and to grow in wisdom,
  • To respond to Your commandment to pursue justice and mercy.
  • To be ever more humble in our use of the gifts by which our planet sustains us.
  • To be strong as we assist all who are in exile, all who suffer oppression.
  • To be fortified through chesed and tzedakah – loving kindness and justice.
  • To bring healing and comfort to all who are infirm, cast off and alone
  • To be fearless forces for good in a troubled world
  • To embrace our tradition of peace and learning, healing and joy
  • To commit to one another – to all of us who are present – and to all who are not present –
  • Reinforcing the unbreakable bonds we share with one another and the Holy One of Blessing.
  • To acknowledge that all of our blessings are Your gifts, and that the hundreds and thousands of miracles that You offer to us each day are invitations to become awake to the mystery that is beyond our vision, yet understood by our souls.

And so to the congregation B’Nai Shalom, I say a hearty “Mazel tov!” and add my best wishes for many more years of worship and service.  May you go “from strength to strength.”

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