Sermon: New Member Shabbat

New Member Shabbat
January 24, 2014
Rabbi David Lipper

I want to begin with quoting one of the great leaders of modern Jewish time. Louis Brandeis said these words nearly 50 years ago.

It is not wealth, it is not station, it is not social standing or ambition which makes us worthy of the Jewish name, of the Jewish heritage. To be worthy of them, we must live up to and with them. We must regard ourselves as custodians. Every one her must feel that he/she is the trustee of what is best in Jewish history….

That is what we are here tonight to affirm. We are here to affirm that the new families which we welcome into our congregational constellation are the next carriers of the baton of Jewish truth. We are here to say that we walk with you down the well worn paths of Torah and learning, social justice and prayer. That is the gift of the synagogue.

Here we close out the outside distractions, the cell phones, the soccer games, the TV and the computer and we open our hearts to the encounter with God and Torah. Here we nurse the spirit and we heal the soul. Here is where we relive the past and look into our future. We walk the wilderness and we stand at Sinai. We enter the promised lands of our own hopes and dreams. And we bring our children also, not as passers by but as participants in the great renewal we live with every day.

And each time a new family walks in our doors, we bring them on the journey. The more, the merrier! There are souls wandering this world who are in search of the warm embrace of community. We are the custodians of this community and our task is to open the doors wide for all who want to enter. And so we have this evening and every evening or daytime someone wishes to enter.

I have a vision of a community of committed and connected families who have the interests of the Jewish community at the top of their agenda. I have a vision where faith and feeling create the future for which our children will be connected. I have a vision of our community that is strong and vibrant and a beacon to Jewish communities all over the country that Judaism is alive and people do care and there is a future for which we are proud.  

Congregational life is where it is at. Every demographer around the world will tell you that without a strong and vibrant synagogue, Judaism and especially Jewish communities will wither on the vine and die out. A congregation is only as strong as the sum of its membership and will only survive through you and your support, physically, emotionally and financially.

Abba Hillel Silver, one of our greatest advocates for congregational life said in 1954

If American Jewry of tomorrow will restore what has become peripheral in our life, to center again – the Synagogue, the school, the academy and the religious disciplines of Judaism – than American Jewry is destined to enjoy a resplendent century of spiritual growth in this gracious land.

This evening, we are here to open the doors and usher you in and set you on the path of trusteeship.   Every member is an advocate, a messenger, a visionary, a partner. We are proud of you that you have joined us in our journey. Together, we can accomplish anything.

As we gather on this Shabbat let us ever be grateful for our inheritance from our ancestors. Our community is a source of joy and pride … let us commit ourselves to its future..