Yagdil Torah w’Yadir

Ḥanukkah, 2012

We find ourselves in a precarious position, to be trite – like the fiddler on the roof.

A small Jewish community in a proportionately small rural county finds itself with many of its members and potential members coming from backgrounds not as firmly anchored in their Jewish heritage as the residents of proverbial Anatevka.  Many of the Jews in the county are nervous about affiliating with a synagogue community at all.  Some have asked the question, “Why even try to have a traditional community here?”  The implication being that since most of the Jews in Lake County do not tend towards strict Torah Observance and aren’t likely to become completely ‘frum’ (religious) anyway, why even try?

Yagdil Torah w’Yadir – to increase Torah and to glorify it.

One of TCOMD’s fundamental principles is this, that anything Jewish, even something someone might think insignificant, that a Jewish person does, is in fact significant.  Any little Torah act increases Torah and glorifies it.

Rabbi Evan Moffic, a Reform rabbi in Illinois, recently wrote an op-ed for the Jewish Ideas Daily.  Rabbi Moffic noted that Reform Judaism, with its 1.5 million members is the largest Jewish movement in the US.  Rabbi Moffic also noted, taking NY as an example, that the number of Reform Jews has declined both in absolute numbers and as a percentage of the Jewish community.  A shift has occurred; with now the portion of Jewish children in New York that are Orthodox standing at 74%. 

He argues that if Reform Judaism is to survive, it must promote synagogue affiliation, stating, “Synagogue membership is the citizenship card of Jewish life.”  He notes that in 1969 (Reform) Rabbi Richard Levy wrote that the American Reform synagogue has “defaulted” on all three of its traditional functions: building community, nurturing study, and engaging in meaningful worship. 

I find it fascinating that Rabbi Moffic’s goal is the survival of a movement that has its origins in 19th Century Germany in an environment that was a precursor to two world wars and the Holocaust.

For the mind and the spirit of the traditional Jew, movement affiliation is irrelevant.  One’s relationship to our heritage, tradition and Torah, God and fellow Jew is what is important.  The rest is mere politics and territorialism.

TCOMD is not in Lake County to save a movement.  TCOMD is in Lake County to save Jewish Identity, to increase Torah and to glorify it.

TCOMD does not check movement affiliation cards at the door.  No particular level or style of observance is required.  Fellowship, growth, simultaneously personal and communal, spiritual and intellectual, are our goals.  The traditional functions of the synagogue are our daily objectives.

We are about to enter a season when our county roads, our city streets, and our neighbors’ houses will be festooned with decorations for what is a legal national holiday.  It would be very easy to let one’s Jewish Identity be washed away in the spiritually fatal rip-currents of the yule tide.  Instead, light a menorah – say a blessing – sing a song – gather with your community – strengthen your Jewish Identity.  Nes Gadol Hayah Po – as the dreidel appears in Israel – a great miracle occurred here – here in Lake County, where we have built a traditional synagogue and established a Jewish Identity for all to see.  Every Jewish thing you do – increases Torah and glorifies it, and establishes the foundations of continued Jewish life for the next generation.

Ḥag Ḥanukkah Sameaḥ!

Rav Hayyim G.Z. Solomon, Ph.D.

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