The Joy of Celebrating 25 Years Together!

(from Rabbi Greg’s remarks at the Zoom Gala Gala)

What a blessing it is has been to have shared this journey with all of you in our wonderful Bet Haverim community for the past 25 amazing years! Where has the time gone? Where has my brown beard gone?!

Huge thanks to all those who worked so hard, and so secretively, to put this special celebration together under, let us say, challenging and unprecedented circumstances. I wish we could all be together physically, but this has been a magical moment. A true testament to the vitality, creativity and incredible heart of our community. Special Thanks to: Our daughter, Ariella for her directing excellence, Dave Nachmanoff and Noah Wolfe for their incredible musical contributions, Meryl Rapport, Bonnie Berman, Elisabeth Dubin, our office manager, Doug Walter, and our bookkeeper, Wendy Haworth, who have toiled tirelessly behind the scenes to make this event the smashing success that it was. And a huge hug and thanks to Jodi Liederman for guiding this zoom gala gala all along. To my family, near and far, for their incredible love and support for the work that I do. And most of all, to my amazing  Julie! To say that I would not be here without her is no exaggeration. I love you and appreciate you more than you can know.

Many of you may not know the story of how we came to be here in Davis. But it was clearly bashert, a match made in heaven! Julie and I moved to California (“back” for me as I grew up in SF!) so I could become the Director of our URJ Camp Swig in Saratoga. While I was at Camp, I came to know many wonderful families from Davis through our Family Camp program, among them the Pattisons and the Munowitches! Very soon after I left the camp position, I received a call from Barry Munowitch, who was then the president of CBH, inviting me to apply for the soon to be open position of Rabbi at Bet Haverim. Well, as they say, the rest is history. What I immediately fell in love with about our congregation then, and what is still true to this day, is the way that we epitomize the very best of what it means to be a community. We are there for each other, we show up for each other, and we know we can count on one another—in good times and challenging ones. Again and again, we have joined forces to make miracles happen! Together we have written two Torah scrolls, conducted a wildly successful capital campaign to purchase our current home (which we own free and clear), established a vibrant and thriving pre-school—Gan Haverim—under the direction of Rhoda Rhonstock, developed an engaging and dynamic Youth and Education program—first under Malka Sansani and more recently under the wise leadership of Ardyth Sokoler, and celebrated our 50th anniversary as a congregation with a year’s worth of events!

And through it all, it has been the deep, loving and caring commitment of you, our partners, who have been there every step of the way—sharing you time, talents, and resources to make us who we are today. You have continually shown up, always willing to jump in and do what it takes to get things done. I feel so blessed to be your rabbi and am in awe of your generous spirit.

Today is no different. Here we all are. Coming together to celebrate us, the power of community. There is a beautiful teaching that there is no word in Hebrew that has only one letter. Everything to be said, every meaningful expression requires at least two letters to join together. For me, that captures the essence of our community! We come together, linking our lives, in order to give voice to and to create a Jewish life of meaning and purpose. 

During these last 3 months, despite the fact that we have not been able to open our synagogue campus physically due to the virus, all of our staff—Doug, Wendy, Patrick, Saumirah, Sari, Rhoda, and Ardyth— and our Board leadership have been working night and day to ensure that we are here for each of you—offering emotional, spiritual, programmatic and physical support; transforming our Jewish experiences in new and exciting ways for us to connect with one another. We have had toy exchanges and special projects weekly for preschool families, created wonderful learning opportunities for our RS/HS students, hosted 4 inspiring zoom b’nai mItzvah (with many more to come!), shared in an inspiring zoom adult b’nai mitzvah, a zoom confirmation, and countless educational programs as a part of our Tuesdays at 2 program. We have come together to mourn at zoom funerals and shivas, we have called and reached out. We have been there for one another. You have been there. Showing up for Shabbat services, Torah study and more!

I love to invoke the spirit of the words of astronaut Rusty Schweikert: there are no passengers at Bet Haverim, there is only the crew! Nobody here is simply along for the ride. Each of you have made this journey possible and I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for all that you have given to me and to our community. You are the heart and soul of Bet Haverim! Because of your generosity, we have reached our goal for our gala of $60,000! And this is no mean feat during these challenging days. But once again you have stepped up and lifted us higher and higher. Once again, making miracles come true.

But the money that we have raised thus far was simply to meet this year’s budget. We still have so many unknowns facing us as we go forward, so much uncertainty about the year ahead. And yet I am filled with such hope because I know that each one of us feels as I do that Bet Haverim is a precious treasure at the very heart of our community.  I know many of you haven’t had a chance to contribute to our gala yet and some of you might be able to give a little bit more so that we can secure our financial stability as we navigate stormy seas ahead. This is our moment to shine together and rise up together to support our beloved congregation so that we will be here, strong and vibrant, in the days ahead! I want to invite you to join Julie and me in contributing to our 25th anniversary challenge to raise another $25 k tonight to energize and strengthen our congregation for the year ahead. People are still donating, so please check another post to see what has been done and how you can help. Please know that every little bit helps and is deeply appreciated. Let me conclude now with the blessing that was in today’s Torah portion…The Priestly Blessing: May God bless you and keep you safe and healthy. May God continue to shine upon you and through you with strength, grace and goodness. May God’s face be lifted up upon you filling you with a sense of wholeness, holiness and peace.

Thank you all for being the incredible blessings in my life that you are! With love and appreciation,   Rabbi Greg