A Bridge to Judaism

When my husband and I first saw our house, it was in the dead of winter.  The house itself was nothing special, but when we went out onto the back deck, we could hear a creek and I started to cry, knowing in my heart that we had found our new home. Once the snow melted, we found that the only way to get down to the creek was to scramble down a very steep embankment and after a handful of attempts, the creek became, for all intents and purposes, inaccessible, like a promise held at arm’s length. And then one day, I came home and found that my husband, Matt, had single handedly built a set of stairs from our backyard down to the creek.  Solidly built and with a railing, all of a sudden the gap between us and the creek had been bridged and we were granted access to a slice of eden.

Unless we have access to something, it is of no use to us.  A can of food with no opener will not ease one’s hunger and a spiritual community that I have no access to will not feed my soul.  The thing we need can be just out of reach, but without a means of bridging the gap, it is entirely useless to us.

The first few years that I lived in Beacon, my  involvement at BHA was limited to attending high holiday services. Why was that the case? Maybe I didn’t feel “Jewish” enough to belong to a synagogue, or maybe I wasn’t sure if I believed in God and felt a bit like an imposter when I attempted to follow along in the prayer book.  Simply put, there were plenty of reasons not to get involved, and not enough of a reason to seek out the bridge that would connect me to this community.

We celebrated Jewish holidays with a wonderful group of friends, but when our son turned six or so, my husband and I realized that his sense of being part of a Jewish community depended on, well, being part of a Jewish community, and so we became members of BHA and enrolled our son in the Hebrew School.  As is often times the case, our child led us across the bridge to something that had previously felt inaccessible.  Once across that bridge, I discovered that there are many access points to BHA; opportunities to learn with my Rabbi, sing with my Cantor, cook with friends, build a sukkah, give blood, learn Hebrew, hike in the woods and more.

Becoming a member of BHA felt a bit like coming home and finding that staircase leading down to the creek.  Like the creek, Judaism had been there all along, a constant thread running through my life and at the core of my identity, but until I became an active member of the BHA community, being Jewish was something that I was more than something that I did.  Before Matt built those stairs, the creek was there, but it was not mine; so too with Judaism-  becoming a member of this vibrant Jewish community is a way to make Judaism yours.

You do not however, have to be a member of BHA in order to participate in most of our programs, attend our services, or volunteer to help out in any number of ways.  So what reasons can I give you for why we need you to become a member of BHA?

The first reason we need you to become a member is unromantically financial; we rely on the dues collected from our members to cover one quarter of our annual budget.  We need you to pay dues so that we can pay our clergy, our staff and our bills.  

The second reason we need you to become a member is because we rely on our members to keep our community running.  Consider everything that went into ensuring that our high holiday services went smoothly; prayer books put in place, flowers purchased, sidewalks swept, torahs rolled, arks opened, shofars blown, apples sliced, honey harvested….  This past year, Jenny Kaplan, our fantastic Vice President, has done a terrific job of filling our numerous committees with members who care enough to spend an hour or so each month taking care of all of the things that keep things going; Simply put, without our members, this community cannot function.

The third, and final reason we need you to become a member is to affirm that it matters that BHA exists. It matters that Beacon has a synagogue with Rabbi Brent’s wisdom and energy, with Cantor Ellen’s kind heart and beautiful voice.  With dedicated and loving teachers, with children learning as they play, with fellow members who come to discover, pray, celebrate, mourn and learn.  I believe that we are living in a time when we can not afford to take anything for granted, including the existence of our thriving Jewish community. Almost 100 years ago, a handful of families built this community and its continuation is entirely dependent on you, on me and on us.

If you are not yet a member of BHA, I encourage you to ask yourself why that is the case.  

  • Don’t feel Jewish enough?  Not sure if you believe in God?  Feel a bit like an imposter when you attempt to follow along in the siddur?  Well, join the club! We look forward to having you.

  • Can’t afford our membership dues?  We have never turned anyone away for financial reasons and our Membership Committee is here to work with you.

  • Or maybe you can afford our dues, but you don’t live locally or don’t feel the need to be part of a synagogue.  If that’s the case, I suggest that you think of your membership as a means of supporting one of our many BHA members who received a generous dues reduction because they are between jobs, or are a single parent, or are just out of school, struggling to make ends meet.  

At Rosh Hashana, Cantor Ellen and Rabbi Brent guide us as we celebrate the creation of the Universe, reflect upon our actions of the past year, and renew our commitment to creating a future that honors the things in our lives that we value.  This year, I urge you to become a member of Beacon Hebrew Alliance: for the sake of your own journey, for the sake of those who depend on your support, and for the sake of generations yet to come.  

Shana Tova, may it be a sweet and peaceful year for all of us.