More than forty-two years ago, a small group of people came together with a vision: to start a Reform congregation in Bedford. These people were filled with idealism as they sought to create a setting that would be rooted in liberal Jewish values of welcoming all who would choose to be a part of us, the practice of kindness toward those within and those outside the congregation, and a community where one’s ability to contribute money would not be the criterion of importance to the congregation.
We were then as we are now: A “mixed multitude” of people with different backgrounds—Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, some who hadn’t been part of a congregation for many years, and of course, there were those who were not Jewish among us. But we all shared a common purpose: To create a Jewish setting that would be worthy, authentic and welcoming of all. Still we embrace the same goals, and in truth, we work hard to fulfill those goals, even as we have grown so much over the years.
A great spirit of volunteerism prevailed in those early years. As we rented space at the Unitarian Fellowship in Mt. Kisco, I recall that it was common for our people to move tables and chairs, set out prayer books for all who would attend our services, and families would rotate in sponsoring the Oneg Shabbat following our Sabbath services.
How to recapture that spirit of volunteerism? We have so many people in our congregation with so many skills and talents. How might we better benefit from all that you bring to us? At this time of change for our congregation, I would love to see more people come forth to offer their skills and insights that might lead to a greater degree of involvement. As we strive to be responsive to people’s needs and desires, we seek more people to help us to achieve that goal.
The story is told of a king who sought to host a great celebration. He invited the entire kingdom, asking only that everyone bring a flask of wine that would be poured into a common barrel from which everyone would drink. But each person thought: “What small difference will my tiny flask make, and so they each brought a flask of water.” Came time to celebrate and drink, and of course, the people drank water as all said to themselves: “My small amount of wine will not make a difference.”
I ask of you that you bring your own “flask of wine” to our Temple community. Surely, we all have something to give than can enrich our congregation, and deepen the satisfaction that you feel in being a part of us. Long ago our sages declared: “It is not for you to complete the task, but neither are you free to turn away from it.” Yes, we need you!
I wish you Shabbat Shalom as I hope to see you at our outdoor service this evening. It promises to be a beautiful evening of song, celebration and Jewish affirmation.