As we gather to hear about the progress of our synagogue over the last seven months or so, we might pause to ask ourselves a radical question: what’s so important about creating this kind of community? Why should we support it, and why should we try to ensure its existence into the future?
Clearly, a complete answer to such a question far exceeds the time I have this morning. To answer it adequately might involve a course in the subject. However, given such limitations, let me attempt to make some observations. To tell the truth, these observations are a result of a lifetime spent involved in synagogue life. So here goes:
I suspect that for many the answer may be relatively simple: our synagogue provides the opportunity to create a community: one made up of people, who by and large share similar values, culture and a common history. It provides a physical place to socialize and to share a wide variety of ways to improve the human condition. It allows us to address issues as basic as loneliness; it gives us the opportunity to find ways to educate ourselves in the hope of finding effective ways to meet some of the social challenges such as hunger, racism and anti-semitism. For some it is a way to show support of our Jewish Homeland.
On a personal level, it allows us to be more aware of some of the challenges that our own members may face in dealing with illness and loss and letting us apply the wisdom of our Traditions to strengthen us when we inevitably face such moments of adversity.
It also give us a way to come together to share significant moments of celebration and to mark these life-cycle events so as to heighten their significance.
As a Conservative expression of Judaism, it provides a medium for those who wish to examine their lives in the light of the wisdom of both ancient and modern thought: to engage in the classic question: “Given the mortal nature of human existence, for what purpose was I born?”
To answer such a profound question, our religion provides us with material that has miraculously survived many severely hostile environments. There is the Torah and the rest of the Bible. Beyond those texts is a veritable ocean of learning stretching all the way down through the millennia to our own times. It represents a treasure house of collected wisdom.
So, to return to our original question: why do we support our institution?
The answer: I believe that life teaches many of us that the secret to a life of joy in the face of life’s adversity is the acquisition of Wisdom! And Beth Ami – the Home of My People – in all its various manifestations, is dedicated to this task.
May HaShem establish the work of our hands.
Rabbi Mordecai Miller