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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.

L’Dor V’ Dor- Generation to Generation

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to pick the most  interesting person from your family history and spend a day with that person? This is the opportunity I had on this trip. My cousins took me to Kibbutz Ruhama to visit my great Uncle David. He’s the 97 year old, brother of my Grandmother. He helped  build the kibbutz after immigrating from ( Dokshitsky) Belarus in 1938 with his wife Hadassah. His mind is as sharp as a tack !! He has hearing aids and a walker now but still likes to keep busy and get out every day.  To look at him, I see mannerisms and facial features that remind me of my Grandmother and Uncle Simon. We looked at old pictures of other family members and talked about the visits my Grandmother made to the kibbutz. It was an emotional reunion for both of us. His son told me he thinks there’s something about the Dokshitsky air that made the siblings so hearty !!