Just about 26 years ago, I climbed the steps to the brass doors and entered the CBHT sanctuary for the first time. You might not have recognized me then, with my long hair hanging in a bushy ponytail. (I knew nothing about man-buns.) I don’t recall who greeted me at the door, but I know someone did, and welcomed me. I also cannot remember anything about Rabbi Ratner’s sermon that evening; I’m sure it was a good one, and that he smiled a lot while he was on the bima that night. I did not become a member until my 30s, years later, but every time I did attend services in my 20s, I felt even more welcome. After my family joined and began to attend services regularly, the warm hospitality I enjoyed was transformed into the warm welcome I could offer others as they visited our temple for the first time.
More than 50 years before I was welcomed into Beth HaTephila, my father was welcomed into Mishkan Tefila, a synagogue in Boston. He was 10 years old, spoke no English, and knew very little Hebrew. Nonetheless, he started attending Hebrew school five days a week (presumably taught by an English-speaking teacher).
Many of his fellow students were, like him, German refugees, with Germanic-sounding names and limited knowledge of English. Despite their status as “enemy aliens” during the war, they were all welcomed into the synagogue. He was also welcomed as a foster child, for a few months, by another English-speaking Jewish family, in part to learn the language, and partly because the family was so poor. I am sure it was not an easy time for my father, being just a child, or easy for his host family, or even the wider community of German-Jewish “enemy aliens.”
I was not a refugee when I was first welcomed into our temple community; we are fortunate to live in more peaceful times, when there are many fewer Jewish refugees compelled to seek new homes. Nonetheless it is our tradition to be welcoming, audaciously hospitable as we say now, to everyone who comes to our doors. We do this because it is our tradition, it is a mitzvah. We also do it because we remember the welcomes offered to us, and to our mothers and fathers, and all of our ancestors.
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Previous messages from the President
It may be summer, but a lot has been happening at CBHT in the office, in the “boardroom” and behind the scenes. The office staff and Board have been busy keeping the wheels of the temple business well-greased. We recently entered the new fiscal year in July; thank you to all of our members who … Continue reading President’s Message – Sept. 2019
Since being elected president of CBHT a few weeks ago, I have had the opportunity to reflect on why I serve on the board and what it means to me in the context of my connection to our temple community. Let’s be honest: our board has occasionally had meetings that have gone on too long, … Continue reading President’s Message – August 2019
Over the past two years, when I have spoken to people about my role as president of our temple, I would get that “Oh, I am so sorry” look. They most always say something about how tedious it must be to deal with the complainers, the naysayers. I can honestly say that has not been … Continue reading President’s Message
As I wrote to you back in March, at the recommendation of the Executive Committee, the Board of Trustees authorized the sale of the property that CBHT owns on Washington Road, behind the playground. Since then, we had measurements taken to assure that we had enough green space on temple property to meet city requirements, … Continue reading President’s Message – May 2019
How fortunate we are to have such a ‘deep bench’ at CBHT. We have a considerable number of very talented ‘players’ who can step up during a transition or help fill a knowledge gap when we’re sailing in uncharted territory. Some of this is by design. By the time someone moves into the president role, … Continue reading President’s Message
I’ve been thinking a lot about Jewish food lately. My daughter is planning her wedding and is designing the menu around ‘Jew-ish’ food — pastrami and rye, falafel in pita, black and white cookies, Israeli salads — a little of this and a little of that, mixing what we think of as culturally Jewish food … Continue reading President’s Message – February 2019
CBHT Heroes For a while now, we have been thinking about honoring congregants who’ve made important contributions to CBHT by instituting a ‘Volunteer of the Year’ award. It certainly makes sense, as there are many people who have given so much of their time and talent. In fact, it’s a huge challenge to think about … Continue reading President’s Message – January 2019
On the Shabbat when the murders took place in the Tree of Life congregation in Pittsburgh, the Torah portion was Vayera, from Genesis, recounting how Abraham welcomed perfect strangers into his tent. As Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), said in his initial statement after the shootings, it was so … Continue reading Presidents Message – December 2018
Excerpted from President’s Erev Rosh HaShanah Speech I’d like to take a minute to tell you a little about my personal Jewish journey. I converted to Judaism in 2004, but my journey began in 2001, in the weeks right after 9/11. My sister’s husband was killed that day, while he was working at the top … Continue reading Presidents Message – October 2018
Our new Annual Commitment structure sets a base commitment amount as well as commitment levels for a range of income levels. This new structure has raised an interesting question from some of our families. They say that they just don’t ‘use’ the temple that much. They may live far away, or they just don’t choose … Continue reading President’s Message
A strong board of trustees in an essential element of a successful non-profit organization, and we are no exception. Even in the best of times, officers and trustees need to be engaged in both the short and long-term issues that impact their organization. And, when facing a crisis, it is all the more important for … Continue reading President’s Message