Last night a group of us began our study of Talmud tractate Pesachim, Chapter 10, which deals with the history and laws of the Pesach seder. I invite you to view the recording of last night’s class and to join us when the class resumes in the Fall.
This Sunday at 3 pm will be our shul’s Annual Meeting, which will take place on Zoom. We will hold elections for the coming year’s officers and board as well as vote on approval of the synagogue’s budget.
I want to take this opportunity to thank those board members and officers who will be finishing their terms as of June 30. In particular I want to thank our outgoing president, Allen Katz.
In virtually every parasha that we read at this time of year, the Israelites rebel against Moses and seek to go back to Egypt. We Jews have been a fractious and contentious lot since the inception of our people. There is an apocryphal story about a meeting between President Harry Truman and Prime Minister David Ben Gurion wherein Truman said to Ben Gurion: “you don’t know how difficult it is to be the President of 100 million Americans.” Ben Gurion responded: “you don’t know how difficult it is to be Prime Minister of 1 million Prime Ministers.”
Experts in contemporary American religious communities tell us that for the most part, mainstream congregations fared pretty well during the early part of the pandemic. In most congregations there was a general consensus that in person activities could not happen and should be transitioned to Zoom. There was consensus on requiring masks and social distancing.
It was only when conditions began to improve that congregations started to fracture. What should be the pace of returning to pre-pandemic normal? Are there adjustments prompted by the pandemic that should be kept in a post-pandemic world? Should we continue to require masks? Should we require vaccination and if so, should we check for proof or take people at their word? Since the rabbinic world is small, I can tell you that I know of congregations that have been blown apart by some of these questions; one colleague in my fellowship program is now contending with a breakaway minyan that meets right across the street.
Psychologists tell us that one of the most important roles a leader can perform in contentious times is to serve as a “non anxious presence.” The non anxious presence serves to lower the temperature level of various debates and keep things calm. Allen has been a real non anxious presence during the last two years and has become a trusted advisor and friend. I’m, grateful for his service to our congregation and thank him for a job well done.
As always, if I can do anything for you or you need to talk, please contact me at email@example.com or 301-977-0768 rather than through the synagogue office. Although I am working primarily from home, I am happy to meet you at the synagogue by appointment. I have been spending more time in the synagogue recently but if you want to speak with me it’s best to make an appointment rather than assuming I will be there when you stop by.
Rabbi Charles L. Arian