I am here tonight to speak about our wonderful Rabbi Abramson. As we begin to celebrate the 25 years you have spent as our Rabbi here at Temple Shalom Emeth, and begin your next 25, it is a privilege and honor for me to take a couple of minutes and tell you what you mean to this community.
In thinking about tonight, I decided the best way to start was to look up the definition of the word “Rabbi”. The classic definition is:
Spiritual leader of a Jewish congregation; qualified to expound and apply Jewish law
Oh, I’m sure you're thinking, Rabbi, ‘if only that were the only things I do’. It did not take me long to realize that these words do not begin to define what congregations expect a modern rabbi to be. There has always been more to being a rabbi than knowledge of the law. A rabbi, or more accurately, our Rabbi, is also comforter, consoler, and confidante; officiant at life cycle ceremonies; programmer and planner; administrator and CEO; visionary and seer; cheerleader and entrepreneur; entertainer and salesman; fundraiser and community leader; politician and power broker; figurehead and symbol.
Well, that’s quite a mouthful. If someone was to say to me.. but Kim… what does Rabbi Abramson really mean to this congregation, I would have to say the following:
You always keep in mind the big picture of who and what we are as a religious community. You keep track of all the details of Shabbat services, of holidays, of individual life-cycle events. You attend every board meeting, every committee meeting, quietly coaching us in the “Jewish way” when we stray too far into “this is how we do it in business”. You help us keep this temple strong, and work with and coach the lay leadership to execute their roles to the best of their abilities, while encouraging their own personal viewpoints.
You know each and every one of us, our current situation, our past history and our future hopes and dreams. You are there encouraging us in the happy times and supporting us through the difficult ones. You keep us grounded in the Temple, in our congregation and in our community. You represent us to the world outside of Temple Shalom Emeth (both Jewish and non-Jewish).
I think the greatest challenge facing the modern synagogue is our need to welcome and affirm people, empower them to act, inspire them to know how competent, capable, and good they are. Judaism can only survive if individuals choose to live it, because it touches something within them.
You, Rabbi Abramson, are the face of our congregation. You help each and every one of us feel part of this community. In an e-mail to you, one of our congregants (Jill Murgo) recently described, why her family chose to join Temple Shalom Emeth:
“I still remember the first time I called the Temple, and how nervous I was when I heard the phone ringing because I didn’t know how the person on the other end was going to sound or what they were going to say. Temple Isaiah was so not the right place for us, and I was so worried that I would find the same thing with this Temple, and then you answered the phone. You were so friendly, and inviting, and right away I felt like things were going to be okay. You didn’t miss a beat when I told you that Mike wasn’t Jewish, in fact, you told me that half the congregation wasn’t either, that the current President’s last name was DiOrio, and that your secretary at the time was Irish! Then, you invited me to a Friday night service, and told me you hoped I’d bring my kids along with me. That alone make me know I was in the right place”.
The Shabbat service is the central expression of the character and mission of the synagogue. There is great power in the ceremonial observances which take place during services. Over the years, you have guided it to be not only a vehicle for prayer and teaching, but an experience that brings together the Temple Shalom Emeth community. You offer to us a variety of Shabbat experiences that give voice to the varied sounds of prayer in our community. Our Shabbat services afford us an opportunity for worship, for study, for prayer, and reflection on what is most precious in our lives.
And, you love our children for they are our future. As parents, one of our most important responsibilities is to teach our children right from wrong, to give them solid values, and to teach them the tenets, beliefs and traditions of Judaism. Your clear love of the children of Temple Shalom Emeth helps our community provide them with the foundation they need as they move into adulthood. You give our children the opportunity to participate in the life of our community, support them in good times and bad, counsel and provide us advice as parents and Jews, and finally share our pride in them and their accomplishments.
Our children are the most prepared to become B’nai Mitzvot, primarily because of your high standards, you ability and willingness to adapt the learning to their individual capabilities and your infinitely patient and effective ways of teaching them. As one congregant said about a recent Bat Mitzvah she attended:
"You did a great job at running a very smooth and beautiful service! I always get a warm and wonderful feeling when I am sitting amongst the Temple Shalom Emeth congregation, no matter what type of service it is, but the B’nai Mitzvah services are my favorite. Thank you so much for being the rabbi of our temple and for all that you do so well!"
When our children continue their Jewish studies through confirmation, and beyond, you share our pride in them. You make them all feel special.
So I ask you - Who else has a Rabbi who:
- Is equally comfortable dressed up for the high holidays, as Morticia Addams, as Spongebob Square pants, Mrs. Pepper or Rabbi Rocketpower?
- Sings in the Temple band without actually being heard? (which I have been assured is for our own good)
- Celebrates Purim and Passover by changing the lyrics to 60’s songs into something meaningful for the occasion
- Knows every child’s name, history, likes and dislikes?
- Supports us in good times and bad?
- Empties out her freezer for families in need?
- Provides help through her discretionary fund, even when it’s empty
Our tradition teaches that behavior takes priority over belief and that faith without deeds will not change the world.
For 25 years you have helped our community grow and thrive. You have officiated at countless life-cycle events, from baby-namings, to B’nai Mitzvot, to conversions, and confirmations. And more and more, you are officiating at weddings and baby namings for former B’nai Mitzvah students. As we say during Shabbat Services “Ldor v’dor, from generation to generation”.
Rabbi Abramson, you inspire people to live Jewishly, because they want to, because they love it, because they feel it in their soul. You guide us through the seasons of our lives and help us with the tools that we can use every day to transform us as Jews and as members of this congregation; Thank you for being in our lives as our Rabbi, and personally as my friend. May you continue to share in our simchas and guide us through all the cycles of our lives.
This is just the beginning of our celebration of 25 years with Rabbi Abramson. Please join us in the social hall after the service for an Oneg that will celebrate both Rabbi Abramson and Ben Douglass’s Bar Mitzvah tomorrow.
Later in the fall, we are planning a special evening event to further celebrate Rabbi Abramson’s 25 years at Temple Shalom Emeth. A committee is forming (let me know if you would like to help). We already have some great ideas. More info to come.
Shabbat Shalom and once again congratulations Rabbi Abramson.