Community Gatherings, Large and Small by Cantor Andrew Bernard

 

One of key features of Judaism is the emphasis on community. We celebrate as a community. We mourn as a community. We pray as a community. We work and play as a community. We gather as a community for a variety of functions.

This December, we have two special communal gatherings. The first is the wonderful weekend during which we will celebrate the installation of Rabbi Asher Knight. While we have had the chance to welcome our two new rabbis in a variety of venues over the past five months, the ceremony and celebration of installation formally cements their places as part of our Temple family. Rabbi Knight’s installation is a chance for our congregation, the Jewish community as a whole, and the broader Charlotte community to formally invite Rabbi Knight to take his place as the spiritual leader of the largest Jewish congregation in the Carolinas.

Like many of our lifecycle rituals, installation is more than a celebration of one person. It is a celebration of our entire community, and an opportunity for us as a Temple family to renew our commitment to this important, ongoing relationship. Many people will help put the significance of this weekend into perspective, chief among them Rabbi David Stern, senior rabbi of Temple Emanu-El in Dallas — friend and mentor to Rabbi Knight. I have had the privilege to work with Rabbi Stern in the past, and I know his participation in the installation weekend will be inspiring to us all.

Rabbi Knight’s installation will take place Friday to Sunday, December 9th to 11th. (Rabbi Klass’ installation will come in February.)

Later in December we will have a much smaller, quieter communal gathering that brings us together in a very different but nonetheless significant way. For more than a decade we have joined together on the evening of December 24th to embrace the stereotype of Jewish activity on Christmas Eve: Chinese food and a movie. While the focus of virtually the entire city around us is on the celebration of this Christian holiday, we form our own oasis of communal warmth menorah-blue-and-whiteand celebration, enjoying each others’ company and observing our own traditions on that night.

This year will be particularly special because December 24th is a Saturday night — so we will welcome in the evening with Havdallah — and it is the first night of Chanukah, so we will celebrate by lighting our menorah. Everyone is invited to bring their own menorahs if they wish, and we will welcome our Festival of Lights together.

In addition to Chinese food, we will again have a pizza alternative for those who prefer, and we will have sufganiot (jelly donuts) in celebration of Chanukah. Our movie selections are the Mel Brooks film, The Producers (the original version with Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder) for the adults, and Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax for the kids. Movie snacks will, of course, be available!

For both of these events, please check with the Temple website (templebethel.org) for details and the all-important RSVPs. It is my hope that during the month of December you will experience the warmth and vitality of our Temple family — a sense of community that makes Temple Beth El the very special place that it is.

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