Each year during our February trip to Israel we walk beside even hashetiya, “the foundation stone” of Creation – according to legend, the very stone where Jacob dreamed of a ladder reaching up to heaven at a place he called Beth El.
Sixty-two years ago, our synagogue founders dreamed their own dream of a congregation to serve the then small Jewish community of Northern Westchester. And they too called it Beth El. Today we are a congregation of more than seven hundred households – some with children in our nursery and religious schools, some with no children at all. Our members are young and older; married and single; divorced and widowed; gay, straight and transgendered; disabled and not disabled; Jewishly literate and Jewishly searching. Among us are fourth-generation Reform Jews and Jews raised in other denominations. And some of us are non-Jews of diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds, but nonetheless integral to our congregational family.
Like most synagogues, we claim worship, study, justice and community as institutional cornerstones. Some in our congregation never miss a Friday night Shabbat service. Others are here every Saturday morning to study Torah. For many this is the place to find strength when life gets tough. And this is also where we celebrate life’s precious joys together. For some, the passion for social justice is embodied here. And for others it is the pull of history that draws them. But whatever we may be seeking here, our hopes rest on the same bedrock ideal – the fundamental ideal that this congregation must be a kehilah kedoshah, a “holy community,” where members feel a sacred responsibility for and toward one another.
And now we have come to a thrilling juncture in the life of our Beth El. Soon we will complete our new Center for Jewish Life and dedicate our Campus of Living Judaism. A remarkable two-thirds of our members have pledged their support for this project. This is an extraordinary, once-in-a-generation moment, which most Jews experience but once in a lifetime.
Many years from now, may another generation look back and say, “When the members of Temple Beth El built this beautiful Campus, they all participated, each and every one of them. And they built it for us. No dream is beyond our reach.”
Together right now may we link arms, grasp hands and walk forward, shaping the destiny of this great, holy congregation, this place of dreams we call Beth El.
Rabbi Joshua M. Davidson