We are affiliated with the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the association of Conservative congregations in North America.
There was a sense of excitement on December 8, when many of our members came together to share some of their memories of the past fifty-six years at CJC. We heard a lot of wonderful stories—did you know that High Holy Day services were once held on the ice at the LI Arena?
We tried to derive lessons from our history and came up with a number of main themes, as well as a “history of the future”—a projection of what we hope to accomplish over the next five years. We will soon post our findings on the CJC webpage for everyone to review.
Let me offer some brief reflections on the importance of CJC’s history in the shaping of its congregational mentality. It is clear that the original vision did not belong merely to one or two people, but to many of you. Quite early in CJC’s history, a unique culture was formed, with special emphasis on hands-on, participatory Judaism, rather than the “high church,” “let the rabbi/cantor do it all” kind of Judaism that is common at many other synagogues. Fundraising was often a challenge over the years, but there were also great successes. Whenever there was a compelling vision, people responded.
I also heard stories about private lives: for example, how the congregation cared for some of you when you were ill or overwhelmed by grief, and how it helped you to educate your children in Jewish values and living. These stories are not merely private—they are also public, for they show how our lives have become intertwined.
Stories matter. The stories we tell about our past help to shape our future. Newcomers also have an important role in this, for they find the history of their adoptive family a matter of considerable interest. They may also be more objective in their analysis of the stories that the old-timers tell!
I think we may have underestimated the time needed for this story-telling and listening process, so the next step will be intimate meetings in members’ living rooms, where you will have an opportunity to deepen the conversation (or join it for the first time, if you missed the December program). I have a lot of questions that I want to ask you! I look forward to working with you on this exciting project of remembering the past and imagining the future.
Rabbi David Klatzker