In two weeks, our congregation will celebrate its first Rabbinic Installation in decades.
A Rabbinic Installation is a sacred event in the life of a Jewish community. The ritual of Installation always occurs in the sanctuary where the Rabbi leads the community on the journey of Jewish life from Baby Namings, to Bnei Mitzvah, to Weddings and (after long life we hope) to Funerals.
Installation is also for you to learn about your Rabbi’s life story and his values.
What our Holocaust Torahs see when they look at us
This week we marked 83 years since Kristallnacht, “The night of broken Glass.” In the night between November 9th and 10th in 1938, 267 synagogues were burned; over 7,000 Jewish owned businesses were destroyed or damaged; 30,000 Jewish men arrested and sent to concentration camps, and hundreds of Jews were murdered. Kristallnacht was the “Beginning of the End” of over 1,000 years of Jewish life and creativity in Europe.
When I was a Rabbinical Student in the 1990’s I met an older Rabbi named Rabbi Alfred (Fred) Gottschalk, who was then the Dean of Hebrew Union College.
Gottschalk was born in Germany in 1930, and his family lived in the Rhineland for centuries. He told us that as a child in 1937, he was scolded by his mother for leaving the house to watch Adolf Hitler pass by in a motorcade, telling him, “A Jew risks a lot doing that”. He also told us a story that on the morning after Kristallnacht he went with his grandfather to the small stream that ran next to their synagogue. Together they gathered the ripped-up pieces of the Torahs that had been desecrated the night before and thrown into the river. His grandfather said “One day we will put them together again.”
83 years later, our synagogue in Westchester is home to two Holocaust Torahs. The Jews who used these Torahs were killed. All that remains is the Torahs. These Torahs are silent, unless we give them voice. When our Benei Mitzvah read from these scrolls, the Torahs look into their eyes and see the future. Am Yisrael Chai. The Jewish People still live. We live with memories in our thoughts and with dreams in our hearts. But what about the actions of our hands?
This week Vice President Kamala Harris spoke to the Jewish Community of America saying, “Anti-Semitism is not a relic of the past. There were more incidents of hate crimes in American this year than in the past 20 years. An attack on one of us is an attack against all of us.”
In our congregation we fight hate by partnering with our neighbors and local Houses of Worship to care for the most vulnerable in our diverse community. Next week please join us in cooking Thanksgiving meals for the hungry in our area. On Sunday, November 21 at 4:00pm please join us for an Interfaith Thanksgiving service with local Christians, Muslims and Jews united in understanding “All human beings are created in the image of God.” (Genesis).
Tonight, in remembrance of Kristallnacht, when we say Kaddish we will open the ark so that our Holocaust Torahs can see us and be reassured we have not forgotten their call to do deeds of justice and compassion for all humanity.
Rabbi David Wilfond
I have invited some of my dearest Rabbinic colleagues and friends to participate in the installation.
At the ceremony you will meet Rabbi Gerry and Dora Friedman. They led the Hillel at the University of Florida where I was a graduate student more than 30 years ago. Gerry grew up in a Hasidic family in Brooklyn, and Dora was born in a DP Camp in Europe. I was the leader of the Reform Student Gators. For three years we learned together, argued together, sang together and dreamed about the Jewish future we wanted to shape. Rabbi Gerry and Dora had a huge impact on my Jewish leadership path.
Also attending will be Rabbi Josh Weinberg. He is the Vice President of the Union of Reform Judaism and is also the Director of the Association of Reform Zionism. Josh was my roommate in Jerusalem more than 20 years ago and has been a life-long friend, colleague and inspiration.
Natan Ellsberg is flying in from Israel to join us. Natan grew up in the Reform Congregation of New Rochelle. We met about 25 years ago when we worked together as educators for the NFTY-in-Israel Summer Programs. One of my life’s greatest accomplishments is having introduced Natan to his wife Sigal. Natan made Aliyah in the 1990’s and is a founding member of Israel’s largest Reform Congregation in Modi’in.
Rabbi Joel Sisenwine and Cantor Jodi Sufrin served as my colleagues and mentors at Temple Beth Elohim in Wellesley, Massachusetts. We worked together from 1999-2004. I admire them as role models who led one of the most vibrant synagogues in America. 20 years ago, their community was about 500 families. Today there are more than 1,400 families. Rabbi Sisenwine and Cantor Sufrin will serve as the installing clergy for the ritual of installation.
Of course, Temple Shaaray Tefila’s leadership will also take part, including Emeritus Rabbi David Greenberg, our Temple President Sharon Feldman, Musicians Noah Chase, Kenny Green, and Alli West, our new Director of Education, Stephanie Ben Simon, and Amanda Weiss our Rabbinic Student Intern.
After a long, pandemic-enforced wait, I am thrilled to invite you to join me with my family, friends and colleagues for the sacred ritual of Rabbinic Installation on November 19, 2021 at 7:30pm, followed by a festive Oneg. Please save the date and I hope you will be able to join in-person.
Rabbi David Wilfond