Cantor’s Column – November-December 2018

Gratitude and Rededication

Cantor Ilan Davidson

In considering what to write for our November/December combined bulletin, I couldn’t help but think about the holidays we  would be celebrating during these two months, Thanksgiving and Hanukkah. While these holidays may seem to not have much in common, in my life right now, they seem totally interrelated. Thanksgiving, the purest celebration of our American forefathers’ freedom from religious persecution that we celebrate as Americans, is filled with messages of gratitude, neighborliness (ok, that may be a little naïve), and sharing of our bounty with each other. Hanukkah celebrates our Jewish freedom to worship and practice our faith within the context of living among the others, while also focusing on our re-dedication to our own faith, when it might be easier to be pulled away and join the other. In short, Thanksgiving and Hanukkah both share the outer struggle, while Hanukkah puts an emphasis on our own inner struggle as well. So what do they have in common, and what does this have to do with us at Temple Beth El.

On Rosh HaShanah, Rabbi Kohn asked us to say, “Hineini, here I am” to our Temple community. Just a few days later, I echoed his plea in my introduction of our new Youth Engagement initiatives. I asked the parents to help us deliver the message to their children, with their own example in participation, as well as going back to the old-school model of encouraging (or making) our children participate in our Youth Programs, Half Pint Havurah, Youth Choir, Yaldei Shalom, and SPeTY. You see, our youth don’t always understand how to balance the outer struggle with the inner struggle. They get who they are as Jews in the outside world, but don’t always understand how to integrate their Jewish time and participation with their secular activities. That’s where the parents, like myself, come in. We need to show them and tell them how to engage in our Jewish community and activities (even if we sometimes need to make them).

For those of you who have engaged yourselves in this plea, I am so grateful. We have already seen a greater commitment from parents to participate in building our Youth Programs. You are the examples. You are the encouragement your children need. You are active builders in our future. The Pilgrims understood that without being willing to sacrifice, their way of life might end, and they made the ultimate sacrifice for a better tomorrow for their children. The Maccabees, while a little zealous, understood that if they didn’t fight for Judaism to have a say in their children’s lives, it wouldn’t be here for us. We are the Pilgrims and the Maccabees, and our children are the future for the Jewish people. If you haven’t already recommitted yourselves and your families to engaging in our Jewish lives, please take this opportunity to say Hineini. If you have, and are still struggling to get your children to engage, please use these holidays as an opportunity for conversation, and maybe a bit of coercion, to get your children to participate in the many Youth Activities that Temple Beth El has to offer.

May this Thanksgiving and Hanukkah be a NEW opportunity to engage, recommit, and give thanks for the fact that we have a vibrant Jewish community to share with our future; and may our youth know how fortunate they are to be the recipients of such a vibrant community. May your Turkeys and Latkes be crisp on the outside and moist on the inside, reminding us that we should enjoy our gifts and protect the future of those gifts.