GREETINGS FROM RABBI WASSER
WE ARE YOUR PEOPLE
Dear Friends & Members,
Happy 5784! Shanna Tova! Bruchim HaBaim! Welcome!
This Yom Kippur, we will recite five times a liturgical poem of unknown authorship entitled Ki Anu Amecha: We Are Your People. The poem is traditionally sung as a joyous song, in unison. The text confidently asserts that there is a personal bond between God and His people. Interpretatively, I suggest that the phrase additionally emphasizes the crucial connection between Jews and their own Kehilla or synagogue. Fulfilling the mission of being a holy people and expressing that love through Shul community and active participation is not always a simple task!
Flying in the face of national statistics across both churches and synagogues, our congregation, represents a resurgence of Shul and a literal regeneration of synagogue life. We have been described by observers as a shining jewel of the Fort Lee Jewish community because we have actively chosen to fulfill the task of Ki Anu Amecha: We are Your people.
While many naysayers continued to lament COVID, masking requirements, complicated demographics, and lack of Jewish affiliation, we, under inspired lay leadership and professional dedication, balked at pessimism, cynicism, and gloom.
Instead, we chose to create a spiritual and “spirited” Jewish institution focused on Davening, prayer, learning, song, and joy! Colleagues of mine, who serve synagogues with memberships two and three times larger than ours, cannot believe the weekly ongoing successes of our Temple. If you believe in synagogue, YOU BELONG HERE! We are Your people.
We are blessed with a world-class Hazzan, Cantor Paul Zim, who shares his interpretive style of the traditional Cantorial arts while weaving in modern and contemporary melodies each week. His ultimate personal inspiration as our Shaliach Tzibbur (prayer emissary) is only fully enhanced when joined, as it is each Shabbat, by your enthusiastic voices and spirited song. If you believe in music, YOU BELONG HERE! We are Your people.
Our well-paced and meaningful services find further expression in Torah introductions, sermons, and what I call “fireside chats,” when we explore together ancient and contemporary insights into the Parasha and its themes. If you believe in experiential transformative spirituality, YOU BELONG HERE! We are Your people.
Our excellent and well formulated adult education series has featured speakers from across North America and the globe. This year, we spent time understanding the complexities of Israeli society, conversing with noted Talmud scholars, and investigating powerful social dynamics such as exclusion and inclusion in the Jewish community. In 5784, we will welcome a Jewish high-school teacher who rescues enslaved youth in Ghana, Africa, meet the Dean of a seminary that trains Rabbis for the deaf, interview a Ukrainian Cantor with a glorious voice, and study with a world-renowned Jewish historian, who happens to be a fellow Canadian and friend from my youth! If you believe in Talmud Torah and Jewish learning, YOU BELONG HERE! We are Your people.
For the upcoming holidays, I will share insights into the Machzor and respond to existential questions including “Why Judaism?” “Why Israel?” “Why Forgiveness?” and “Why Remember?” I will frame these questions through the lens of education, academia, philosophy, personal sharing, Hassidic stories, classic Jewish texts, and, above all, humility. If you believe in grappling with Jewish identity, YOU BELONG HERE! We are Your people.
I look forward to welcoming you and your children, grandchildren, friends, and neighbors to our celebration of the Holidays. Trust me, if you believe in renewal and strength of community, YOU BELONG HERE! We are Your people.
As we continue to fulfill our important mission, I pray from the bottom of my heart for a Shanna Tova U/Me’tuka (sweet and happy New Year) for us, for Israel, and for all humankind! May we all be inscribed together in HaShem’s Sefer HaChayim, The Book of Life, for happiness, for joy, for sustenance, for peace and for fulfillment.
Rabbi Eric L. Wasser, EdD, Hon.DM