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” How Awesome is this Place….”

 Remarks from the

Dedication of the New Beth El Building

 Bonnie Cohen August 7, 2013

In 1950, a group of men marched our Beth El Torahs from the Balch Street JCC to the new Beth El building on Hawkins Avenue. The people who gathered that day included holocaust survivors, veterans of World Wars, and many who were the first members of their families to become American citizens. The people in the room that day in 1950 could not have imagined our lives today connected by the internet and attached to our cell phones. Nor could they have imagined a woman leading services and being counted in a minyan.

And yet, as different as our lives are today, there is a common thread that binds us together. In times of joy, and in times of sorrow, we are drawn together, to be surrounded by people who share that common thread. It’s not the building on Balch Street, or the building on Hawkins or even this new building that draws us together. It’s the connections we’ve made, the personal stories of caring for one another- that is the most important lesson of our Torah.

The Rabbis teach that there are three pillars of our faith: studying the Torah, praying together and doing good deeds. And to accomplish those things in a beautiful place makes them even more meaningful. That is the concept of Hiddur Mitzvah – to beautify the commandment.

God gave Moses detailed instructions to build a portable sanctuary so that He could dwell among the people. It was not just the work of the talented craftsmen that made that portable sanctuary beautiful. It was the workers generous spirit and team-work.

That same spirit is present in this room today. Your generous and willing spirit to answer every call for help, to get your hands dirty,  to open your check books,  and to support an idea, that few of us thought possible a few years ago.

The choices we made for this sacred space were respectful of one another and inspired by a reverence for God’s creations. We tried to make environmentally conscious choices wherever possible and we honored all who came before us by re-furbishing our treasured artifacts. From the Merkaz room that includes our congregant’s handmade tiles, Paula Newman’s stunning Ner Tamid, the mosaic artwork created almost entirely from recycled glass- this was a project of thoughtful and communal efforts.

I tried to make the artwork luminous and uplifting. The donor wall illustrates the seven days of creation and sheltering wings still emerging from the background just as we are still emerging from the transformation of our move. And the ark wall, is a pillar of light, a tree of life reaching to the heavens.

Thanks are due to so many people whose names are listed in the program. But I want to especially thank SteveBotnick, our own Beth El Bezalel, who had the vision and  expertise to make this happen in our community. To my husband Randy for all of his help and support  and to Jason and Roger Boltz, who contributed their extraordinary talents to make this place a beautiful jewel box. And to Andrea, the most dedicated and devoted President.

I also want to express my most sincere gratitude to my Uncle Jay Nusbaum (of blessed memory). Before he passed away, he asked me to promise I would create something beautiful for Beth El.

For his blessing, and for all of you whose names are etched on the wall of blessings, it is my hope and prayer that you continue to cherish and strengthen the common thread that brought us all here today. You are the true blessings of our congregation.

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The Fence Festival

For the first weekend of our Israel Artist in Residency, Janice and I will be particpating in ” The Fence Festival”. This will take place at  Kibbutz  Gesher Ha Ziv http://www.gesherhaziv.org.il/, in the Western Galilee near the Lebanon border. Janice and I will be working with children in a building that was once a chicken coop ( at least that ‘s what Amir, the festival organizer, told us). Janice made this wonderful wallhanging incorporating photos and messages  from our mosaic Planting for Peace Project  here in Akron. The Israeli children will have the opportunity to  cut, sew, decorate  and stuff soft sculpture flowers and write their own messages to hang on the quilt!!

All this before we even start doing  mosaics  with older school kids on Sunday morning!

 

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Janice and Bonnie’s Israel Adventure

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OK, so neither one of us knows how to use a Blackberry, or how to plug things into a wall with some kind of a converter, or how to use an ATM machine ! Are you wondering  how  all the preparations are  going for our week long artist in residency program in Israel?

Well I  did manage  to call Randy from my office while he was in the kitchen using skype. Am I making progress yet?

We may be electronically challenged, but when it comes to making artwork, we’re doing just fine. Janice is creating an amazing documentary fabric wallhanging about our Planting for Peace Project and we will be working with Israeli children at the Fence Festival   at Kibbutz Gesher Haziv. The children will be creating soft sculpture flowers and leaves with messages of peace to add to the wall hanging. More pictures to come this week as it takes shape.

Meanwhile I’m on a mission to find a bag for all my electronic thingies that you plug into other thingies/devices. Like an old fashioned purse maybe??

NO comments from our kids please !

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May 2 , Planting for Peace

The ” Planting for Peace” community Lag B’ omer  program was a great success. All who attended had a meaningful and educational experience thanks to our wonderful volunteers. I was proud to be a member of our caring and thoughtful  Beth El Congregation.

May 2   Garden Dedication Remarks

The theme for today is Planting.

 

We are not only planting seeds in our community garden to help others but we are also planting kindness in our actions by working peacefully together.

 

We are making ourselves more aware of people less fortunate than we are.

 

We are planting awareness of our environment and making  making our world a better place to live.

 

We are growing food for the hungry; we are recycling to save our environment; we are knitting blankets to keep families warm; we are creating beautiful artwork to send to halfway around the world where people’s lives are not always peaceful.

 

This community garden inspired a mosaic art project called “Planting for Peace.”   This project gives us the opportunity to share artwork with people of the Western Galilee region of Israel in our sister city of Acco.

Our artwork and our messages of peace help us share kind thoughts and beautiful artwork in a part of the world where kindness between people is not always evident.

 

Our Torah teaches us to “Love your neighbor as yourself”

 

It is starting right here. It is starting with just one person reaching out to another. We are planting the seeds for a better world.

We are Planting for Peace