This is a Conservative Jewish synagogue?
As I looked at all of you from my place on the bima on the second day of Rosh Hashanah, I was thinking, “Where exactly is all the doom and gloom we read about in the Jewish press? From all the articles and essays, one would think that the entirety of Conservative Judaism was in trouble.” Yet you were all there, strong in numbers and spirit, singing the High Holiday tunes you love, reaching to honor the Torah in the processional, eager to hear the message of the sermon. Orangetown Jewish Center, tucked into a neighborhood close to the border of Rockland county, New York and
Bergen county, New Jersey, looks small and unassuming from the outside. Within its walls, however, on this second day of the New Year, members of forty years sat together with members who joined this past year and ten guests who joined us through the ticket bank of the Rockland Jewish Initiative (RJI). Hundreds joined together in the sanctuary, another couple of hundred prayed in the Havurah minyan. Families with babies and toddlers celebrated the day in a Torah for Tots service, and grade school children participated in an interactive Rosh Hashanah experience led by three of our young adults.
On the first day of Rosh Hashanah families with young children and unaffiliated Jews from Rockland and Bergen joined us for a family service just before more than one hundred of us walked a mile together to a stream for the ritual of Tashlich (throwing away the bread crumbs of our sins). Everywhere I looked, I saw Jewish people looking for something meaningful and finding it. Who could blame me for feeling optimistic as we enter the new year?
There are those, perhaps, who wonder about our congregants who come to synagogue just for the High Holy Days. There are people who judge our “Three time a year Jews.” Rabbi Scheff and I feel quite differently about those who join us each year for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. We are delighted to see our congregation turn out in full. In our view, Jewish people who look at their calendars, see the Jewish New Year and begin making plans to celebrate and observe… are Jews who are keeping the sacred brit (covenant) of God and the Jewish people. Every year, there are some congregants who are moved by their experiences on the High Holy Days to come see what all the excitement at Orangetown Jewish Center is about on the other days of the year.
Someone might attend a class, a Shabbat service, a holiday celebration or a volunteer experience. I am confident that if that seeking congregant is you, what you will find at OJC is a vibrant, welcoming home of egalitarian, Conservative Judaism. If you are looking for a way in, please contact us Rabbi.Scheff@theojc.org and Rabbi.Drill@theojc.org. We cannot wait to welcome you home. G’mar chatimah tovah. May you be sealed for a joyous and meaningful new year.
Rabbi Paula Mack Drill