Annual Appeal 5779: Turning Storm Clouds Into Sunlight

Yom Kippur Annual Appeal, 5779
September 18-19, 2018 — 10 Tishri 5779

One Shabbat morning an elderly woman who walked into a shul where she was greeted at the door by a friendly usher who offered to take her to her seat.  Where would you like to sit?

The front row, please.

The front row?  Why so close?

Oh, I really want to be able to hear the rabbi’s sermon. I don’t want to miss a single word!

Have you ever been to our services, the usher asked?  The rabbi is a nice guy and all, but frankly his sermons are not scintillating.

Really, she said.  Do you know who I am?

No, he said.

I am the rabbi’s mother.  I think his sermons are fabulous.

Do you know who I am, the usher asked?

No, she said.

Good, he answered. Let’s keep it that way.

I first told this joke a few weeks ago in a sermon about not writing people off.  The usher and the mother write each other off, and in this season we should recommit to not doing that.

I tell this joke again tonight because it points to the inevitability of disagreements in a community. People see things differently. The usher and the mother have different opinions about the rabbi.  So too, people here see things differently. We are like our country. Diverse. Divided. Passionate.   Some think we are too left. Others think we are too right. That has not changed.   The important point is that these very real differences have not stopped our shul from being a place of Jewish values that inspires all of us, in ways consistent with our convictions, to radiate kindness, compassion and love into the world.

When we shared the good news that Quin, the woman from Uganda whose life was at risk because she was gay, was granted asylum by a federal judge, the response from our community was overwhelming.  Within one day more than sixty Temple Emanuel members volunteered to help.  Seven families said we’ll house her indefinitely. One family is doing so.

That’s not to mention the daily rides, calls, meals, shiva visits, sick visits, that happen in our community every day.  Somehow, magically, our beloved member Chanah Berkovitz just happens to appear every single morning at 7:00 for morning minyan, and every single evening at 7:30 for evening minyan, even though she no longer drives.  Immaculate transportation.  The  miracle is the love of our members who  drive her every day.  Small wonder that she calls Temple Emanuel an “oasis of spirituality.”

Kindness, compassion and love originate here and spread out to the world.

But is that enough of a response? Is that perhaps a cop-out?  Isn’t the world in an urgent moment?  Of course it is. Doesn’t our country need your advocacy, not just your kindness?  Of course it does.

But like the rest of the country, we don’t agree on what the right political outcome looks like.  We can agree on the importance of Jewish values, and those values are even more important in these sharply divided times.    These are the Jewish values that our world needs more of, and you can find these values right here: respecting other people, k’vod habriot; personal humility, anivut; the ability to listen, shema yisrael; and that we act consistent with our principles.  That we make a difference in the world, tikkun olam.

That’s why we are sending 25 teens to Israel this December to deepen their love of the land and people of Israel.  Get inspired here, make a difference out there.

That’s why we are doing a family mission on March of the Living, taking our families from Auschwitz to Israel, to confront the history and present reality of anti-Semitism. Get inspired here, make a difference out there.

That’s why we raise money every year for 30 years for the soup kitchen of the Mass Avenue Baptist Church, and why our volunteers regularly serve in the soup kitchen. Get inspired here, make a difference out there.

The services, programs, classes, and events that allow us to get inspired here and make a difference out there take resources.  That is why our Annual Appeal is so important. 28% of our revenue comes from our Annual Appeal. Your support literally allows us to do what we do and to be who we are.

One fine August afternoon this summer, Elias and I were officiating at a wedding for one of our families in Newport, Rhode Island.  All weekend long there was a 70 % chance of rain in Newport.  As Elias and I drove to the wedding, it poured the whole time.

Fortunately, this couple had signed up for the Temple Emanuel Clergy Weather Protection Package where, for a slight additional fee, we guarantee perfect weather for outdoor venues.  Just as we got to the wedding site, the rains stopped, the heavens cleared, the sun shined, and we had a perfect hour of sunlight for a very happy bride and groom.

The storm clouds gathered, but through the power of love and grace the storm clouds were turned to sunlight.

With your help, it can happen again, right now.  With your generous gift to our Annual Appeal, we can turn storm clouds of division into sun light through the power of your love. Thank you, and g’mar chatimah tovah.