Kallah Graduates: The Future of the Jewish Community

by Rabbi Audrey Pollack, May 30, 2016

Dear Solelniks,

This past Shabbat morning we had the great kavod of celebrating with eleven students and their families as they led us in prayer and song and shared their thoughts about becoming Kallah Graduates. The future of the Jewish community looks bright! I want to share with you the d’var that I addressed to our class of 5776/2016:

Today you are standing at that mountain, looking forward on your journey in the Jewish community, like our ancestors who stood at the base of Mt. Sinai, waiting to embrace the Torah, at the beginning, really, of their spiritual ascent. As the Kallah graduating class of 5776/2016, take a moment to think about all that you have focused on throughout your years of study at Bet Sefer: the up close and present moments – holidays, history, Hebrew, what Judaism says about a myriad of topics. This year we have gone deeper into some of those topics and delved into others as we have learned together this year in preparation for your long-term future as a Jew. Your parents are looking at you with pride and joy, and perhaps a bit of emotion as well. They are remembering the messy years of art projects, and sticky treats that you would enjoy at Bet Sefer and at Kuddle Up Shabbat. They are thinking about the teachings they tried to model for you – how to greet new friends, how to share and care for our community, how to take Jewish learning and prayer and mitzvot seriously. And they are now watching you as you step forward into your Jewish future as the focus shifts and you stand at the mountain.

In some ways, this seems like an ending, but it is really about beginning to make commitments as a Jewish adult. In many ways, you are still like the Israelites wandering through the wilderness, standing at the mountain, not knowing what the journey ahead will be. But like the Israelites, you have to have the commitment and the faith to go forward. We live in a day and age where as I have said to you many times this year, we are all Jews by choice. That is to say, in our world, if you want to be Jewish you have to actively choose it and make something of it and decide what it will mean for you. In some ways that ascent up the mountain becomes tougher – because now you have to be the one who challenges yourself to find meaning, to find that Judaism is valuable enough that you would choose to actively identify with the Jewish community.

Rabbi Larry Kushner has often said that if synagogues were businesses, their product would be Jews. That’s what we are all doing here together, as a Solel community. We are all here trying to help each other – learning how to learn, and to do mitzvot, and to care for others, and pra,y and make meaning out of the messy and the mundane, the painful and the awe inspiring parts of life. And it is all holy, every part. So we welcome you, as fellow climbers at the mountain. And we look forward to seeing you here at Solel, continuing to learn as high school students, volunteering as teaching assistants at Bet Sefer, as mitzvah doers with social action projects, as helpers in the Solel community, as leaders in MITY youth group, as chanters and leaders at services. So know that you are not alone on the journey – there are fellow climbers who have made the journey before you. Some of them are in the texts we studied together this year – in the commentaries and codes – in the Talmud and Midrash and Biblical passages. Some of them are here in the words of our Siddur – a record of our people’s experience with God. Most of all, those who sit here in the congregation this morning – your fellow Kallah students, your parents, grandparents, siblings, friends, relatives, and fellow Solelniks are those who climb with you – and can offer assistance and perspective on the ascent, from their own journeys.

Mazal Tov!

Rabbi Audrey S. Pollack

Filed under: Rabbi's Message

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