There is a lot to love…
Now that summer is upon is, we are able to reflect on the previous program/religious school year. I am thankful to be the rabbi of this vibrant congregation. The Torah says in Leviticus that if we do as God expects us, then blessing will follow. If we don’t do what God expects, the curse is likely to be around. I believe that learning about what God expects and then putting that knowledge into practice is a certain way of bringing about blessing.
Bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people. But blessing comes to people—even when they endure hardship, and the good that comes to people who are evil or some derivative thereof, is certainly not blessing.
Here at Valley, we have had some profound blessings. In May, our congregation was honored to welcome eight high school students to Confirmation/Graduation. During this beautiful service, 10 past presidents escorted our students onto the bimah, and the graduates spoke of their unique paths through Judaism that allowed them to arrive at that service. They were diverse in their experiences, some attending GUCI or Livingston camps, a bunch going to Israel, all of them celebrating B’nai Mitzvah, and each with a strong sense of Jewish identity. Those eight students spoke eloquently about their various connections to Jewish life and the Temple, and it is a night that many of us will long remember.
This has also been a banner year for B’nai Mitzvah. We have had a few unusually large classes, and these students have excelled in their preparation and growth. They led our service, they read from the Torah, they developed understanding of the material, and they showed that our future is looking pretty great.
We have 30 students participating this summer at our Reform Jewish summer camp (GUCI) outside Indianapolis, and even a few families participating at Camp Livingston. That means that more than ½ of our school is participating in the mitzvah of Jewish camping, and lots of blessings will follow that. I am looking forward to my 40th (!) summer connected to GUCI this year, and will be on faculty during the first session.
Our adult Hebrew classes were well attended and have created some wonderful chaverot (learning and social groups) that make services and other Temple events more meaningful. The adult education seminars have been diverse, whether with UC Professor Craig Perry, Rabbi Judy Spicehandler, or others, and topics like mysticism, the work of Mordecai Kaplan, the Cairo Geniza, and Death and Dying in the Jewish Tradition. That, along with our ongoing Shabbat morning Torah study allows us to continue to strive to have something for everyone.
And then there’s Wendy, our administrator; musicians, Marilyn Zelcer, David Snyder, Charlene Gubitz, Robert Pollack, and the Friday Night Live band; building staff, Don and Robyn—they all help to make our experience here important, spiritual, and positive. Our rabbinic intern, David Reinhart, rabbinic fellow, Alicia Harris, and our youth group advisor, Brian Meeron all toil to make Valley great, too.
Our synagogue tag line is “a refreshingly positive Jewish experience.” That is so true. And all of the programs and people unite to make our experience refreshingly positive. But when you learn with us, when you pray with us, when your kids and grandkids graduate or become B’nai Mitzvah here, it’s more than just a positive experience, it’s a blessing. We’ll see you at services this summer!
Sandford R. Kopnick, Rabbi