Every group of people see themselves as being unique. Our uniqueness may be in the fact that we see ourselves as a people even though we come from different ethnicities and races, we speak different languages, and live in different lands. But there are certain things that we, the Jewish people, share which create a powerful bond.
We have a common history. We have a sacred text, which gives us a common narrative and begins defining our values. We have a language. And even if our beliefs are different, we have a memory of a relationship, or covenant, with God. And we have a relationship with a Land. For two thousand years we existed, grew a culture and a literature, and flourished without a country; we did not have a sovereign nation. And so, we also experienced the pain of being outsiders; persecution, exile and death. But we never lost sight of the dream. One day we would have a land. That was the hope, Hatikvah. And it would be a place where we could live out the highest values of our tradition and a place where we would be safe.
In the two thousand years after the expulsion from our Land, the ideas and the values, the learning and yearning were kept alive in the synagogue. There, we developed communities of responsibility and concern. In the synagogue we learned. And in the synagogue we prayed. In the synagogue a passion was nurtured. A teacher of mine once referred to the synagogue as the portable state of the Jewish people.
This year our synagogue joins with the citizens of Israel and the Jewish people worldwide, marking the 70th anniversary of the modern State of Israel. Here at B’nai Torah, some of our most philanthropic members have done extraordinary work on behalf of the organizations and institutions that have made Israel productive, creative, meaningful and strong. Tomorrow night B’nai Torah celebrates at our annual Congregational Dinner Dance. We are honoring and recognizing members who devote their lives to their synagogue and to Israel. It is not coincidence that these honorees for Israel at 70, are also amongst the most recognizable supporters of Jewish life and synagogue life.
They are Barbara and Dr. Jeffrey Feingold, Meryl and Ron Gallatin, Beatriz and Harold Jacobsohn, Sandra and Dr. Bill Lippy, Carlyn and Lothar Mayer, Miriam and Zwi(z”l) Preminger, Janice and Jeffrey Sandelman, Mickey(z”l) and Harold Smith, Amy and Fred Weiss, and Selma and Dan Weiss. We stand in appreciation for their support. The organizations, schools and programs they support are the following: Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, Hands On Tzedakah, The Schechter Institutes, Israel Tennis Centers, American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Jewish National Fund, Israel Bonds, Hadassah Hospital and Research, American Friends of Magen David Adom, and The Lone Soldier Center. Additionally there were three anonymous gifts to honor Technion – Israel Center of Technology, The Shalom Hartman Institute, and The Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County.
We bring attention to a variety of institutions; from those that are about the defense and security of the country to those that represent the aspirational hopes for Israel now and in the future. Tomorrow we will be together as one. We understand the reasons to celebrate 70 years of Israel’s existence! How fortunate we are to be in these days! Israel and B’nai Torah are gifts to our lives. And we are together in the hope that we can all be better and do better in the future. Serious challenges will continue to be faced and be overcome where there are open eyes and minds, and a willingness to work together.
See you in shul.
Rabbi David Steinhardt