November 2017

Tradition and Change: This is the catchphrase of the Conservative Movement. It originally comes from the book of the same title written by one of our Movement’s greatest rabbi’s, Mordechai Waxman almost sixty years ago. In it, Waxman states that Conservative Judaism is “a coherent tradition: anchored in our sources, internally dynamic, able to house a plurality of opinions.”

I could not agree more, for it is what I witnessed happening at our own Beth Sholom these past two months.  We are a synagogue offering both tradition and change for our congregants and our greater community. I want to highlight some great examples.

Our High Holy Days and Festival services embodied Tradition and Change.  On the second day of Rosh Hashanah, we had our traditional sanctuary service led by our wonderful cantor and meshorarim and we had our innovative, participatory alternative Hayom service. Both were extremely successful. How so? The attendance in both answers this question.  We were overflowing in our new “tent service.” It was standing room only, as we needed to bring in more seats to the tent. Our congregants were excited and moved by the new service experience. The response has been incredible from those who attended.

At the same time, our sanctuary service had over one hundred people and they also loved that service. I am hoping to help expand that service with prayer introductions or reflections by congregants at various points. Again, people were moved by the tefilot and d’var Torah by Rav-Hazzan Sokol.

During the Neilah-final Yom Kippur service, we once again offered congregants the opportunity to come up to the bimah and stand in front of the Aron Kodesh-the ark -as the ark doors were open. In a sense giving people the feeling of standing before the Holy One, offering up their own prayers or thoughts–Panim el Panim—face to face. It was powerful to see and will now become our Beth Sholom tradition.

Right after Yom Kippur, I led our seventh grade B’nai Mitzvah kids and parents on our annual trip to New York City and the Lower East Side.  It is the thirteenth year we’ve run the trip and is one of the highlights of our religious school program. The families learned how Jews from Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean immigrated to the United States at the turn of the 20th Century and the changes they faced. We visited two synagogues, Eldridge Street and Kehillat Janina (Greek). We visited the Tenement Museum to experience how immigrants in the 1910’s lived together in the same tenement building.  The kids and parents were enthralled with the visit. Of course, we also noshed on pickles and great kosher deli along the way. Our Lower East Side trip is now a TBS tradition.

And finally, representing both tradition and change, over 32 of us are experiencing both old and new worlds in Israel. Tradition: Our third trip in ten years. Change:  over twenty participants going to Israel for the very first time. Look for postings and photos from our Beth Sholom pilgrimage on my Hagigim blog.

I do want to thank all our congregants who helped make these past two months so rewarding. We all made TBS stronger.

I am so proud of our Temple Beth Sholom community, for we truly represent the best of the Tradition and Change catchphrase.   May we continue to do so for years to come.

Rabbi, Dr. Larry Bazer