Sunday, April 7, 2013

Our President's Passover Letter, 5773

Nisan 5773
March 2013

Dear Friends,

I hope this letter finds you and your families well. 

The Haftarah for the second day of Passover recounts an ancient story which at first glance seems arcane, but in fact has a powerful lesson for us today. During the fifty-five year reign of King Menashe, idolatry was promoted throughout the kingdom of Judah. Shortly after Menashe’s death, Josiah, his grandson, ascended to the throne. Seeing how the Beit Hamikdash had been grievously neglected, he ordered his workmen to repair the deteriorating structure. As the work was carried out, a scroll of the Torah was found. This created a sensation since during the reigns of Josiah’s father and grandfather knowledge of the Torah and even the physical scrolls had vanished. The Torah was brought and read before Josiah. When he heard the words, he rent his clothes and resolved to do teshuvah. The King had articles of pagan worship removed from the Beit Hamikdash, and then he removed the idolatrous places of worship throughout the kingdom of Judah.  He then read the Torah to the people, and renewed the covenant with them and God. Finally, Josiah ordered the entire nation to bring the korban Pesach, which had not been brought since the time of the Judges, centuries earlier.  

For the Jewish people in Egypt, Passover marked the beginning of their renewed relationship with God. For Josiah and for us today, Passover is not the starting point, but rather the culmination. After planning, cleaning, and cooking, sometimes for weeks or more, we are able to sit at the seder and enjoy the transition from being slaves to Pharaoh, to being servants of God; from being physically enslaved to being spiritually liberated. In Josiah’s day, the Jewish people were in a very bad way, and much effort was needed to bring them back to a life of Torah. Nevertheless, after many decades, they were successful. However far we are, we are never too far. If we put in the sometimes significant effort, we too can return to Yiddishkeyt and infuse our lives with holiness. This is an ongoing process but is intensified in the weeks leading up to the holiday. The more we prepare, the more we can appreciate God’s care for us, both when we were in Egypt, and now. It is this divine closeness that Passover joyfully celebrates.

We have been working hard to continue to build our shul as a makom Torah. We have been energetic in inviting guest scholars to teach and learn with us. These include Ben Elton from Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, Roy Feldman from Yeshiva University, Rori Picker Neiss from Rabbis without Borders (CLAL) and Noah Levitt from Yeshivat Chovevei Torah. Daniel Fridman continues to give his excellent shiurim on Sunday mornings, and many of these are now posted on The Tot Shabbat program has also been going strong as has the Women’s Rosh Chodesh Group.  As a result of our efforts, I am pleased to say that we have also attracted new families and individuals to our kehilah.

Now that we have replaced the roof and that our boiler has passed inspection by the city, we are turning our attention to repointing the exterior of the building. Some of this work was done in 2003 and in 2010, but we still have about $60,000 more of work to do to complete the exterior. In January, we submitted an application to the New York Landmarks Conservancy for a Jewish Heritage Fund matching grant. If awarded, this grant would pay for up to fifty percent of the cost of the exterior restoration. The rest of the money we need to raise ourselves. We will need your help! 

Our community was saddened to note the passing of Lily Plaks, the mother of Eric Plaks. We are also saddened to note the passing of Johnny Weber, brother of Gloria Plaks. May their memories be for a blessing.

We are delighted to extend a mazel tov to Seth Chalmer and Rachel Rosansky on their engagement and upcoming wedding and to Benjamin Waldman and Bracha Rubin on their engagement and upcoming wedding.

Although Rabbi and Mrs. Kret are no longer with us, we strive to maintain their spirit of welcoming newcomers, warmth, and Torah. We are also working to keep our building safe and usable now and for future generations. Please continue to support our efforts. With your help the Old Broadway Synagogue will continue to be a very special and holy place for years to come.

Warm wishes for a happy and kosher Passover,
Paul Radensky