DAY 863: An Inspiring Night — Reflections on Friday Night in NYC

November 10, 2014
By bethmordecai
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DAY 863: An Inspiring Night — Reflections on Friday Night in NYC

Dear Hevreh,

If I were to tell you that this past weekend I went to New York for “Music! Singing! Dancing!,” you might have thought that I was going to the latest Broadway show or some other musical performance. But in fact, along with nearly 15 other members of our congregation, we weren’t at a show…we were at shul.

To be exact, we were at Congregation B’nai Jeshrun, one of the largest and most thriving Conservative synagogues in the country. It’s a synagogue that started in the late 19th century yet rapidly declined after a heyday around the middle of the 20th century. Then in the early 1980s it hired a charismatic rabbi Marshall Meyer, who was an aide to Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel in rabbinical school and who had singlehandedly rejuvenated Jewish religious life in Argentina during his 25 years there. Along with his protege (and current BJ senior rabbi) Rolando Matalon, Rabbi Meyer helped BJ grow into the dynamic synagogue it is today with groups (like ours) coming from all over the country to see how their services run.

The night was inspiring — the singing (almost exclusively in Hebrew) was led by by a triumvirate of rabbis and cantors with much participation from the congregation.

Accompanied by a keyboard, drums, a flute, and a guitar, the wonderful music reverberated against the walls of the sanctuary. And at one point, many of the hundreds of seated daveners (people praying) rose to their feet to dance around the room in a glorious circle.

As our group convened to debrief during dinner after services, we all agreed that the music was amazing (with some reservations about the instruments) and being surrounded by a crowded room of hundreds of people joining in the music was extremely uplifting. Interestingly, One of the most inspiring comments was less about our experience at BJ, and more about what we’re doing at our own Jewish Home for the Soul:

“Much of what I experienced the — the clapping, and the singing, and the dancing — wasn’t new because we do that during our services. So when they did those things I felt comfortable and able to participate” (paraphrased).

There is more to share from this night on what we can learn to help our community of Beth Mordecai thrive. There is much work to do to turn our full chapel into a full sanctuary. But based on this comment I think it’s encouraging to know that if the success of BJ is any indicator, we are certainly on the right track.

Kol Tuv,

Rabbi Ari Saks

P.S. Tomorrow I will preview a very special day in Perth Amboy as we commemorate the City being the FIRST site to ratify the Bill of Rights in 1789 with an educational re-enactment. The re-enactment (in which I am a participator and member Barry Rosengarten is the organizer) will be held tomorrow on Veterans Day (November 11th) at 12 pm NOON at City Hall Circle. All are welcome.

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