September 1, 2013
In one of our summer Torah portions, the Israelites sent out twelve scouts – one from each tribe – to investigate the land of Canaan/Israel. Ten of them came back frightened, saying that the people there “were like giants and we are like grasshoppers.”
But Joshua and Caleb saw reality as it truly was and urged the people to go forth to create a new society for their/our people, living in freedom and shaping their own destiny.
Twenty-six years ago, University Synagogue’s founders faced their dreams and not their fears, as well. They created a new synagogue that was inclusive, intellectual, spiritual, humanistic and loving. They didn’t ask: Will anyone join? They believed that if you built a congregation of quality and a synagogue of relationships, people would come. And they did. And they do. And they will. And we will. For our synagogue can only thrive if we continue to reach out and bring new people of all ages and all religious backgrounds into University Synagogue. It’s up to us. Each one of us needs to bring others! All of us should be proud today and celebrate what University Synagogue has given us – as individuals, for our families and friends, and for the greater Jewish and general communities. Now it’s our time to “pay it forward.”
Remember all of those powerful spiritual moments of the past year – shofars blasting around the sanctuary on Rosh Hashanah, the Cantor singing Kol Nidre in a darkened room accompanied by violin and cello on Yom Kippur, waving the lulav and etrog at our outdoor Sukkot service, seeing the fully unrolled Torah held by adults encircling children on Simchat Torah and so many other powerful memories.
Think of all that we have learned from our speakers – just over this past year: 103-year old psychoanalyst Hedda Bolgar, Pacific Symphony conductor Carl St. Clair, songwriter Paul Williams, Father Gregory Boyle, former LA District Attorney Gil Garcetti, Prof. Marc Epstein on “Mystics, Messiahs And Madmen,” Tom Dugan in his one-man play about Simon Wiesenthal, the Merage Israeli Fellows, Mike Flint, an American who helped create the Israeli Air Force, poet Andrew Lustig, Prof. Laurence Baron on “Jews In Cinema,” Rabbi Sid Schwarz on “Jewish Megatrends,” OC Register publisher Eric Spitz, author Elizabeth Bettina on Righteous Rescuers who saved Jews in Italy during the Holocaust, and UCI Law School Dean (and University Synagogue member) Erwin Chemerinsky defending Moses at our Biblical Trial series and his annual review of recent Supreme Court decisions, and the list goes on and on.
Rejoice in how we’ve all benefited from Women’s Connection, the Kallah, Adult Education, our Jewish Film Festival, Big Sunday and Mitzvah Day (and all of our Tikkun Olam projects), Coffees With the Rabbi, Intro Nights, our interfaith events with IUCC, Pacifica Institute and the Center For Spiritual Living, and so much more.
Recollect the joy that we shared at our Gala dinner, Pesach Seder, 25th Birthday Celebration, monthly Family Shabbat dinners and services, AJE and Religious School, Pre-School, summer camp, Beach services and barbeques, our all Congregation 65th Israel Birthday celebration, monthly Shabbat Alive services, Generations and countless other wonderful memories.
What a year it has been!
Thank you to our hard working and thoughtful Board, to our excellent and talented professional staff (what would University Synagogue be without Education Director Sue Penn, Pre-School Director Heidi Kahn and Cantor Ruti Braier!), our diligent and caring office and facilities staff and our hundreds of volunteers. Please thank them when you see them; let them know that the incredible hours that they put in, day after day, for all of us, are deeply appreciated.
To all of us: even better than remembering and appreciating the past would be to join in, wholeheartedly and actively, to create our future. We need everyone’s ideas, support, attendance and vision in order to continue to create the synagogue of our dreams.
Shana tova as we, in a few days, enter 5774,
Rabbi Arnold Rachlis