Originally posted Tuesday, December 15th, 2015
Dear Temple members,
In this, my sixth year as your rabbi, I continue to feel blessed and privileged to be able to walk with you on our Jewish journeys. We’ve continued to celebrate simchas together and to support one another in times of loss. The synagogue is for us an anchor, a home port, a place of connection. A place for expressing and cultivating our Jewish identities, and a place from which to exercise our efforts on behalf of tikkun olam. Demographically, our congregation appears to be thriving: We’ve had five babies welcomed and named in our Temple so far this year --- and one more to go next Shabbat. And we’ve had three new Jews by choice complete their conversion studies with me this year – and one more to do so in the next few days. And new and returning member families continue to join us, motivated in no small part by the sense of welcome and caring to which we dedicate ourselves at Temple Israel.
My work (as I suppose is the case for most congregational rabbis) is rewarding and varied. For the moment I’ll just highlight some of the ways in which I’ve served as a representative of our congregation and as a teacher of Judaism in the Twin Ports community at large in 2015. Highlights of this involvement include:
- Leading a “Talkback” session at the College of Saint Scholastica last January following a lecture by Georgetown University Professor Jacques Berlinerblau, a Jewish scholar who spoke on “Why America Needs More Secularists;”
- Speaking at a College of Saint Scholastica program in March on “Being Jewish in Duluth” which was organized by the student chaplaincy office there.
- Participating in an interfaith panel discussion at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Duluth in April for Earth Day.
- Welcoming the wider community to our Temple home turf for the CHUM Spring Assembly in May and for the Central Duluth Interfaith Thanksgiving Service in November.
- Speaking at the Oreck-Alpern Interreligious Forum “Religion and Science” group in June.
- Speaking at the Bell Ringing Vigil at St. Mark’s AME in June in memory of the victims of the Charleston AME Church shooting, and
- Meeting with the cast of a local theatre production of a Jewish-themed play (“Hardball”) at Douglas County Historical Society in September.
In general, in my work of being (as it says on my RRC diploma) a “Rabbi and Teacher in Israel” I have wonderful and committed partners among you.
Two of them deserve particular mention:
Our Youth Education Director Andrea Buck is an inspiration to me because of her profound dedication to our children’s Jewish studies. We are lucky to have her as part of our professional leadership at Temple Israel.
She is always striving to plant seeds of Torah in our youth that will blossom as they grow older, and she continually works to develop her own Jewish learning and pedagogical skills. And I’m glad for her support as I involve myself with teaching five teens in confirmation class and two “tweens” in trope class. Our fine religious and Hebrew school teaching staff members are also indebted to Andrea for her thoughtful supervision and guidance.
And our Temple President, Chris King, is a true partner in my work as well. She carries the title not only of President but also that of Rabbinic Aide, which means that I can (and do) look to her to assist in liturgical leadership and pastoral coverage in my absence. Of course, Chris is not the only such Temple member who does so, as our talented cadre of service leaders, musicians, Torah readers, and general “mitzvah-doers” attests. Thank you to the many skilled individuals who have led services and/or Torah study during this past year when I have been away at conferences or on vacation. And thank you to Casey Goldberg and Danny Frank for their musical assistance at various Shabbat services throughout the year. I know that as the congregation prepares for my six-month sabbatical starting a year from now, Chris and others in the congregation will be well-situated to keep the ship running smoothly.
On a day to day level, it continues to be a pleasure to work with our fine Temple staff, including Andrea Buck, Barb Kritzman, Mona Cheslak, Marko Jukic and Lainie Ribnick.
And on a Tishri to Tishri level, it has continued to be a joy to work with Mike Grossman in his coordination of the High Holiday services, and a delight to make sweet sacred music with Erin Aldridge and the singers and featured instrumentalists of our Temple Choir. Some of you may know that Mike is hoping now to transition out of his High Holiday committee leadership role. He will be a tough act to follow but we are fortunate that Ben Yokel is willing to transition into it as we plan for 5777.
I have no outgoing board members to thank as everyone on the board is staying put for another year!
Nevertheless, my deep thanks to all of them for their continued service, and especially to Debbie Freedman and Janet Rosen as they begin new terms on the Board.
Happy Chanukah and may we all be granted good health and success in our worthy endeavors in 2016.
Rabbi David Steinberg