Shalom and Hello,
I hope you are having a good summer.
It is that time of year when we begin looking towards the fall and High Holy Days that arrive late this year, beginning Sunday night October 2. We are looking forward to your joining us as our community comes together to celebrate renewal, tradition, and inspiration in prayer, reflection and song.
Let us take a moment to honor the memory of a towering figure in the Jewish world who passed away this week, Elie Wiesel. His memoir NIGHT is a searing testimony to the heartlessness of which man is capable and bears witness to what his family and millions endured during the Holocaust. Wiesel was not only an eyewitness who stood up to remind the world of the possibility of evil when we don’t act, he was also a professor, a playwright and powerful speaker. I had my own special encounter with Wiesel when, as a rabbinic student in Cincinnati, I starred in the second American theatrical production of his play, Zalmen, or the Madness of God. In the play an elderly Rabbi in the Soviet Union is urged by his beadle, Zalman, to speak out to a group of visiting Americans and tell them how Jews in the USSR are being silenced. In the play the Rabbi has a son who has grown up to discard his Judaism and seeks a role in the Soviet Party. The rabbi’s grandson, Misha, is forced to decide whether he will follow his father’s example and leave Judaism or follow his grandfather and continue the Jewish story by having a bar mitzvah. At the end of the play, the boy runs from the synagogue after one of the two men and the audience is left with the question, did the boy chase after his father or grandfather?
In real life, the boy playing the part in our show just happened to be the grandson of a major Jewish opera singer fiercely proud of his Jewish identity. The opera singer’s son however had grown up and decided to discard his Judaism, much like the character in the play. The boy playing Misha was faced with deciding in real life would he follow his grandfather or his father? On opening night the boy came to me before the show opened and told me, ‘Jan, because of this play, I have decided to have a bar mitzvah.’ After the performance, Elie Wiesel who was in the audience came back to congratulate me on playing Zalman. I told him I knew how his story ends. I explained about the boy playing Misha and that on account of his experience playing the role the boy had decided to follow his grandfather. With tears streaming down his face Wiesel embraced me and whispered in my ear, “Thank you. For this boy alone did I write this play.”
We all write our own stories. At the High Holy Days we have an opportunity to rekindle the identity and tradition of our people and to make meaning from our own contemporary experience. I hope you will join us and tell others to join our community as the holidays approach, and always, in all ways, believe in who you are.
Erev Rosh Hashanah - Sunday, October 2, 2016 7:30PM
Rosh Hashanah - Monday, October 3, 2016 10AM
Kol Nidre - Tuesday, October 11, 2016 7:30PM
Yom Kippur - Wednesday, October 12, 2016 10AM
Yizkor 12:30PM (no tickets required for Yizkor, discussion and Neilah)
Discussion with the Rabbi 4PM