TBI: It Matters

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Rabbi Maurice, January/February 2011

As I enter my final seven months as a TBI rabbi, I’ve been paying close attention to all that we do as a synagogue and a center for Jewish life. The sheer amount of activity is mind-boggling, and the quality of so much of it is inspiring. Do you know all that goes on in your Jewish community?

Let me offer a snapshot of just some of it. Since the High Holy Days, we’ve celebrated b’nai mitzvahs, worked with people considering becoming Jews-by-choice, officiated weddings and funerals, and sat shiva with mourners. Our Talmud Torah teachers have worked with our 137 students, engaging them in prayers, Torah, discussions, artwork, and field trips. Our Talmud Torah principal traveled to a Springfield school and a home school center to educate about Judaism.

Our rabbis, lay leaders, and musicians created warm and inspired Shabbat services. Our Sisterhood hosted Sunday Cafés that have drawn dozens of Talmud Torah parents and guests into the building during religious school hours. Families filled our Sukkah to the brim as we celebrated the holiday (with heaps of ice cream). We reached out to new and potential members with lunch in the Sukkah and a brunch.

There’s more. TBI participated in the Global Day of Jewish Learning, which drew over 100 participants into a day of study taking place simultaneously in over 400 locations worldwide. Sister Helen Prejean (author of Dead Man Walking) led an interfaith discussion on religion and the death penalty. As part of an interfaith community effort at improving inter-religious dialogue, Imam Khalid Al-Fallatah gave a presentation on Islam, and Rabbi Yitzhak introduced a dozen UO students from the Persian Gulf region to our Torah scrolls, providing them with what may have been their first experience in a synagogue.

Jewish art exhibits graced our walls – first Phil Decker’s photographic study of the Lower East Side of New York City, followed by the stunning prints by Shrage Weil. Adults came to TBI to learn: Saturday morning Torah study ran strong. People learned Talmud, studied Jewish prayer and spirituality, and participated in Martha Ravits’s monthly Jewish book group. We hosted a presentation on Jews in Italian Renaissance Art, and we screened numerous films.

Volunteers visited the sick and distributed aid to individuals in acute need. We held Senior Brunches in our social hall. Rabbi Yitzhak and Shonna began preparing for a spring TBI Israel trip with over 30 participants. We supported teens seeking to study in Israel, and we responded to the Carmel region fires. Meanwhile, our Board worked hard to plan a way for us to meet the challenge of paying off our wonderful building, and began the search process for a new rabbi too.

So much activity, so much life. TBI. It matters.