Ten years ago, after our children were asleep, some friends discussed what a vibrant Jewish community would look like in our small Ohio town. We took a chance and in less then two months, we had a holiday service that forty people attended. That was unheard of. From that grew a community.
Two years later, my family moved. I was excited to be in the Northeast where there would be a bigger Jewish community. I would join a synagogue that was already established, where I could help if I wanted but not get “too” involved. When we moved, we heard advice on which synagogue to join. There was one place that we had been told not to go because we wouldn’t be accepted. I had to see for myself. I attended a Saturday morning service thinking I will sit in the back and observe. Within five minutes, someone had come up to me, asked who I was and offered me an honor in the Torah service. It was not long before I became a teacher in the Hebrew school, a member of several committees, and a regular at services. Eight years later, I am part of this community’s change.
For the past six months a group of diverse individuals have met to decide whether our synagogue should merge with another synagogue, share space, or sell our building and build a smaller facility. Our committee has never agreed. We struggle with our choices at each meeting. We discuss, we argue, we get headaches. Elliot, our eldest member, carries the synagogue history. His advice is you are the future – you decide whether and how we exist. I am not sure that any of us have really decided. I know I have not. This is not an easy decision. I try to think of the Jews throughout generations who have built synagogues, and then had to leave for one reason or another. Jews throughout history have moved; we are wanderers. Our survival has depended on it. In many small cities, Jewish communities face the same problems – not a lot of people and not enough money.
I listen to the other committee members, many who have been at this synagogue longer than me. Are they attached to this building? What is it that keeps them here? And I know, it is not the brick and mortar. It is not even the memorial plaques, that seemingly tell our history. It is our community – it is our arguing about our future, it is our voices when we sing together in prayer, it is the people who wake up early in the morning so I can recite Kaddish for my father, it is the children who are excited about learning. The spirit of the people is what makes us a congregation. Tomorrow, our future path will be decided. It is rumored that one hundred people will attend a meeting to discuss our fate. This vibrancy is our future, this interest is what will sustain us; this I believe.
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