I write to you after a break that took me first to New York for some professional development, and then to the central coast of California for a family reunion. We had a wonderful time catching up, cooking, hiking in Big Sur, playing football with the boys, and in general recharging after the fast paced days that typify so many of our lives. We feel fortunate to have had that respite, and a change of scenery for any of us helps us see home in a new light also. Our nomadic forebears built those experiences into their lives. So much of the Torah and the Bible recounts their journeys and migrations, as well as our experiences of dwelling for long periods in a variety of countries-Egypt, Babylon and back to the land of Israel.
As we prepare to celebrate Brianna Coughlin’s becoming a bat mitzvah, and my installation weekend, it seems appropriate that we will welcome in Shabbat with a wonderfully nomadic “evening in Marrakesh.” The Moroccan Jewish community, while quite small today, is one of the world’s oldest, with roots that stretch back to antiquity. As historical conditions changed, there were several waves of Jews who settled there, adding to its rich cultural milieu. Part of that cultural production we will get to sample this evening, with Moroccan and Jewish music, an ancient Jewish story, and for those who signed up, a feast of Moroccan food (I am thrilled that we are booked to beyond capacity for the meal. If you missed the chance to come to tonight’s dinner, I hope you will sign up for another Global Shabbat. Next one is in March, then May). Morocco’s food history shares the same wide ranging influences of so much of its culture. I want to thank Cantor Bletstein and our guest musicians from the band, Serrafine, in advance for their efforts and practice sessions to bring us this experience; and Allen, Robin and the kitchen staff for their culinary creativity.
Hakhnasat Orchim-Welcoming Our Guests
I am quite pleased that my friend and colleague, Rabbi Steven Denker and his wife, Lisa Lowe, are able to join us for our gala. Steve and I first met about 8 years agp at a rabbinic retreat in the mountains of Georgia. The now defunct program (they ran out of funding), Oraita, brought rabbis of many denominations together for high level learning. He and I were fortunate to learn with scholars and luminaries such as Rabbis Yitz Greenberg and Art Green. Our focus was on brit, on covenant. What is it that binds us to each other? What makes Jews responsible for one another? That theme certainly resonates for me in the days before my formal installation.
Life, as we know, is full of surprises. When my family and I moved to Cleveland, Rabbi Denker and I got to deepen our friendship, as his pulpit and mine were just a few minutes away by car. We developed that notion of mutual connection and responsibility by working with another colleague, Rabbi Zach Truboff, to bring our Reform, Conservative and Orthodox congregations together for a year of learning. We rotated synagogues so that everyone would have the opportunity to host. This sort of cross-aisle learning was new for Cleveland, and people from many other congregations also attended. We often talk of our mutual connections as Jews, but how often do we get to live them out? People wanted in.
Honoring our personal history, Rabbi Denker and I will be speaking at 1 pm after services on Saturday about the state of Jewish movements. I am excited for this conversation and what I hope to learn from his perspective and thinking.
Our weekend of learning and celebration continues on Tuesday the 12th at 7 pm. Our book group will be meeting to discuss Rabbi David Wolpe’s award winning monograph, “David: The Divided Heart.” Our wonderful librarian, Kaiya Goldhammer, who organizes our book group, invited me to facilitate. While this book is genuinely worthwhile, it is not necessary to have read the book to attend–there will be plenty of opportunity to learn and to discuss. Please consider this my personal invitation to you.
There are too many people to thank individually for this marvelous upcoming weekend, and to the community as a whole for entrusting me as your rabbi. That said, I am deeply grateful, humbled and looking forward to all our celebrations. Way to go Brianna!