We are affiliated with the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the association of Conservative congregations in North America.
Crossing the bridge
We all felt great sadness about the synagogue vote to enter into merger negotiations. I have the impression that, for a number of years, the congregation has been like the cartoon coyote who speeds off the end of the cliff and keeps going straight ahead from sheer momentum. Like the coyote, we have finally come to the painful realization that we are falling.
Each of us will experience this loss in our own unique way. Perhaps a few people will want to cast blame. But it would be a waste of time and energy to blame the synagogue’s previous rabbis or the board or the denomination or the changing demographics or generational differences or the economy. While all of these factors may have been at work, assigning blame will not make us feel better and will not improve things. Instead, we need to show empathy for one another.
Some people probably think that we ought to redouble our efforts to try to save the synagogue. But very few synagogues in similar situations have been able to reverse the negative trends. Now is the time to face the reality that this congregation has completed its purpose and needs to move on to other tasks.
Over the next year, I will help you reflect on the congregation’s many achievements over the years. We will find emotionally rich ways to remember the synagogue’s history. We will discuss how to bestow the congregation’s remaining assets as a legacy to the Jewish community, so that our core values will be continued, and parts of the past will be carried forward into the future.
Dix Hills Jewish Center seems to have a congregational DNA that is really very close to ours. Although merger negotiations seldom proceed in a simple, linear fashion, let’s try to keep in mind that our shared values can help us create a single, new community that will take our Judaism deeper and deeper. The unity of the merged congregation does not depend on memories, past friendships, or old victories, but on the foundation of trust that empowers all future innovation.
The Hebrew word for bridge is maavar, which also means transition. It is related to the biblical word Ivrim, Hebrews (literally, “those who cross over”). Abraham crossed over countries to get to Canaan. We crossed the Reed Sea and the Jordan River. While you are on a bridge, you feel disoriented—you are neither on one side nor the other.
CJC is crossing the bridge now. We are not being sold a bridge—no one should buy a bridge. Rather, we are being sold a destination. If we can keep the vision in mind, if we can focus on what is best for our children and grandchildren, then we will lay the foundation for an exciting new synagogue entity with the resources to grow Judaism in the community.
May God bless this congregation as it moves across the bridge.