Rabbi Allen – After 25 Years, It’s Good to Know

In 2011, it is 150 years since the start of the Civil War. It has been 75 years since Ceil and Irv Schecter got married (more on that later) and 70 years since Joe DiMaggio hit safely in 56 games and Ted Williams hit .406. It has been 50 years since President Kennedy took the oath of office and 35 years since the Entebbe Raid. And 25 years ago, I came to Minnesota and began my rabbinate here at Beth Jacob. While not comparable to the other milestones listed, it is truly a Sheheyanu moment. When the last blintz is eaten on Shavuot, together we will have celebrated 25 complete Jewish festival cycles. I remember after my first Shavuot here at Beth Jacob, when were still meeting in the JCC, I turned to Sol Minsberg and said, “Now I feel like I have a home here.” To which he wisely replied—“Rabbi, not so fast. It will take time for you to truly feel at home. After all the old Sons Of Jacob regularly went through 2 or 3 rabbis a decade.”

The gift of stability has meant a great deal both for the development of the community and for me personally. While I wouldn’t say we are like a pair of old shoes, we do know much about each other and by and large are comforted by one another’s presence. With the completion of this milestone though, it is also a time for us to share reflect and begin planning for the next marker in our lives. To that end, I would like to ask each of you over the summer months to take a few minutes or actually 25 or so minutes and share with me your thoughts about the shul, your Jewish life, where you feel we need to grow as a shul community and where you feel you personally need to grow in your own Jewish life. It would be fascinating for me to hear how you see yourself in relation to the world around you.What guides the actions which you take? How is your political philosophy shaped by your religious self understanding?. I would also like to hear about your relationship to Israel, how you think about the state and the land of Israel. I promise not to disclose any of your answers or put them up on my Facebook page. But I do believe that your openness will allow me to better understand how to plan accordingly for the coming years together. When you have a moment to spare at work, share your thoughts with me. When you are sitting by the beach on vacation, take a few minutes and send me your ideas. You can leave a voice mail on my phone, but I would really prefer an email to mojo210al AT aol DOT com or a letter. And just so you don’t forget, be on the lookout for a reminder in your emailbox and snailmail box in the coming weeks. After 25 years, a little reflection is a good thing.

I also want to address one other thing in this month’s column. These last few weeks have seen an unprecedented attack on our work regarding Magen Tzedek, on me as a rabbi and as a person, and, by extension, on our shul. The vile and putrid nature of these attacks speaks for itself, and while these lies are never pleasant to read, I am a big boy and can take care of myself. I know that what we have done and how we have done it has been with the highest ethical standards, and that when people can no longer defeat the message, they seek to defeat the messenger. I am not defeated. I am saddened that attacks on our shul, and on the inclusive nature of our shul, have become part and parcel of the attack generated from the extreme fundamentalist sects of the Jewish community. The disparaging remarks about our community and about the fact that we are an affirming Jewish community, does not remove the fact that we are filled with pride about each and every one of our members and our households. Hate is not a Jewish value.When these fundamentalist Jews seek to attack the shul because of what we believe, the most important response we can offer is to hold our heads high with pride and celebrate the inclusive and loving character of our shul community. I am filled with hope that the next few months will see the realization of the Magen Tzedek. I am also saddened that there will be those who will seek its demise by attacking me and the shul. It is a sad commentary on the state of Jewish life in some quarters that this is what will occupy their time. I do ponder this fact all the time—If I happened to have been a woman, my picture would have never appeared in their publications. Oh well.

Finally, make the summer a time for Jewish life. Come to daily minyan, come to shul, stop by shul for Kabbalat shabbat at 6 pm and have some wine and cheese. (Click here for more information about celebrating Kabbalat Shabbat outside this summer). Journey through July, study Torah and most of all let me know your thoughts—“after 25 years its good to know.”

Rabbi Morris J. Allen

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