Something extraordinary happened on Monday night. All organisms have lifecycles. All communities, including Jewish communities, are a form of organism. They are born and take their tentative first steps. There is tremendous excitement, innovation and creativity. People discover things they never knew were possible. A building might be bought and developed. In time, the community grows up and matures into middle age. Children grow up and leave home. People join and people leave. Communities experience great joy and deep loss together. They celebrate together, laugh together, dance together and mourn together. Eventually, as they enter into old age, into the winter of their lives, some communities split, some merge, some move and some die.
We have taken the bold decision both to merge and, eventually, to move the centre of gravity of our community to a location that will once again enable EMS to survive, grow and thrive – and for this decision I salute the courage, vision and tenacity of our members and especially of our leadership team.
However, I want to acknowledge that for some of our members, who opposed the merger, the decision the community has made leaves them feeling grief, loss, anger and perhaps even a feeling of being let down. They love the community; they have brought up their families in the community and they feel that the shul building is their spiritual home. I know that these people acted from a place of love for the community and with the best of intentions for the future of the community. We need to honour and hold their grief, to turn towards the feelings of loss and sadness with compassion, tenderness, and love. It is important that we, as a community, come together to comfort those who are mourning, to make sure they don’t feel left behind and to listen to how they are feeling.
I also want to acknowledge something very important that otherwise might get lost amidst all the strong emotions flying around. There are many people in our community who supported the merger who are alsofeeling some sadness – indeed they may well have been feeling this way for some time as shul attendance has gradually diminished. They too love the building, many helped build it and they too celebrated their family simchas in the building.
Most people I know, including myself, find change hard and sometimes painful. And yet, this is the very condition of life. As Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) teaches: everything is impermanent and subject to constant change. There is something very human about trying to keep things as they are – to keep us safe and held within what is known. But the one constant of life is change. We are limited human beings and, in truth, there is very little we can control in our own lives – let alone in the world outside.
As we move forward and EMS continues to evolve and develop, as it must, it is my deepest and sincerest hope and prayer that together we can harness the pioneering spirit, the love and the kindness that led to the creation of the original EMS and together create EMS 2.0.
Let us go out and welcome new people into our community – people who are looking for a Jewish path that brings meaning, purpose and a spiritual connection into their lives. Let us build a beautiful new (eco-friendly) building in a new location where we can be together, sing together, pray together, learn together, grow and develop together. Let us to build our community in a way that continues to nurture and sustain us, our children, our grandchildren and perhaps even our great-grandchildren! This will be our legacy. It is a vision that we can all be proud of.