Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Rededicating Ourselves at Chanukah

One of the great pleasures of Judaism is that despite whatever difficulties are going about in the world, be it in the Middle East or in the economy, the holidays give us an opportunity to step out of the maelstrom for a moment or two, catch our bearings and refresh ourselves before stepping back into daily life, with all its currents and eddies. This ability to pause and take stock is even stronger when you can do it together with someone else. This year is our fourth year having a joint Chanukah party with State Senator Bill Perkins, his staff and friends. In order to celebrate our 100th anniversary, Senator Perkins invited other local politicians and religious leaders to the party including Assemblymember Keith Wright, Controller John Liu, Congressmember Kirsten Gillibrand, Councilmember Robert Jackson and Borough President Scott Stringer. A number of the local leaders sent representatives, but John Liu, Robert Jackson and Scott Stringer came in person. All of them spoke beautifully, and most brought framed proclamations. I was surprised and touched. Of course, those of us who maintain shuls and other non-profit institutions believe they are important but it is thrilling to receive the outside corroboration.

Our Chanukah party also gave me the opportunity to briefly touch upon the significance of Chanukah. I recounted the story of the desecration of the Temple and of its rededication by the Maccabees. I noted that as important as the building was, the victory of the Maccabees had a much greater significance. It meant that idea that there is one God continued to flourish. And not only this, but that God demands ethical behaviour and responsibility, to Him and to our fellow humans, was and continues to be extraordinarily important. Old Broadway's location in Harlem is a special blessing for us. Many of our congregants - wonderful people - live in Harlem. Moreover, since Harlem is in many ways a religious community we are deeply respected. Finally, we have an opportunity to bring Yiddishkeyt and Torah to the neighborhood - a tremendous zekhus.

May Hashem grant that we may be able to continue and thrive for many more years!