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Rabbi, When are y'all going to get a building?

04/29/2019 02:11:54 PM


Not so occasionally, people ask me, “When are y’all going to get a building?”  With a sort of quiver of responses, depending on how the question is asked, I attempt to choose one that will speak to the individual and the moment.  The responses to this question generally range from a recognition of the great financial cost of a building to the impact these expenses often have on an institution’s “self-assessment” of how flexible it can remain to potentially interfering with Shma Koleinu’s ability to literally meet people where they are at, to simply the value of offering ourselves as a partner or supporter of other organizations through the financial support they receive through our rentals.  And I also tell people that I have always maintained two conditions if and when we do ever occupy a single building: 1. The building cannot be large enough to house us for the High Holy Days – who needs to pay for space that is only filled 4 out of 365 days a year?  And 2. We cannot occupy a building on our own, but for the sake of cash flow, the sharing of fixed expenses and being in relationship on a regular basis with another non-profit, we would seek another organization with which to share the space. 

However, the above rationales are but a prelude to uncovering how our “wanderlust” is a real boon to what Shma Koleinu is and what it can continue to become.  Perhaps the best part of not occupying a single building is the way it forces us to remain agile, flexible and spontaneous.  Whereas buildings can often necessitate having to ask “Why?” when presented with a new, perhaps not entirely vetted opportunity, Shma Koleinu is regularly able to ask the question, “Why not?”  When presented with the offer of the Lanier Middle School Klezmer Band to play at our recent Passover Seder, frankly, even with all of our flexibility, I got caught up in a “scarcity mindset,” worrying about whether this was the right decision, whether or not the kids would be “good enough,” whether or not we had room.  But perform they did, and their beautiful youthful and musical presence brought elements to our Seder that I could never have planned.   

And then this past Saturday and another shooting at a synagogue.  Another “tally” in the growing proof that anti-Semitism is at best, a dormant volcano, whose source of fiery hate seems to draw from a never-cooling core.  Last night, I called an old friend of mine, Rabbi Yossi Friedman, from Chabad of Birmingham, AL.  We hadn’t talked in quite a while but knowing how close is the “brotherhood” of Chabad Rabbis, I figured surely he knew these Chabad colleagues from Poway, CA.  Of course, while Yossi doesn’t know Rabbi Goldstein but in passing, I wasn’t surprised to hear that he is related to the Poway Chabad’s younger Rabbi.  We caught up a bit and talked about the horror of these incidents and a mutually shared confusion about what we need to do to solve this.  Yossi then offered to me that maybe the best we could do was what I had just done – reach out and connect. 

We both agree that the illness at the core of all of these expressions of hate is an existential loneliness that has pervaded our lives.  The more established, the more settled, the more “successful” we become, the less connected, the less we know each other, the less we come across, especially to those with whom we don’t work or pray or love.  I believe it advances peace and cooperation, the better we know each other.  It’s important that the middle school Klezmer musicians, parents and staff at our Seder, the church members and leaders at St Marks, St Lukes, Grace Episcopal, St Lukes in the Heights, the multi-ethnic, multi-cultural staff members at the Rothko Chapel, Seasons 52, Minute Maid Stadium, the Bell Tower and Dave and Busters, among so many others, have worked with us, experienced and witnessed us at our best (and sometimes at our mediocre!), because as a result, they get to know us.  And as a result, they cannot honesty claim that we are any different than they and their communities - for better and for less than better.  We have our highs and we have our lows and the invitations we receive to dwell in their most holy spaces, to celebrate and mourn, to comfort and be comforted, to raise our children, to sing and reflect and imagine and dream – these are the ways in which they get to know us.  And to know us is to love us.

Now on a last note, let me be clear.  I remember when I learned the difference between “like” and “love.”  I want to clarify this so that you will understand what I am getting at.  One day, when I was a young kid, I did something that really angered my Mom.  I don’t remember what it was but I do remember that the silence was painful until my mom broke it with something else that I don’t exactly remember experiencing as a salve.  She said to me that she will always love me but that right now and for at least, a little while to come, she doesn’t very much like me. 

So when I say that “to know us is to love us,” what I mean and what I hope for is not that by virtue of Shma Koleinu renting a facility, the hosts will necessarily like everything about us.  But I do hope and I do believe that one of the most interesting upsides to not having a building of our own, is the regular and consistent opportunities it avails for two different groups to come to express human love towards each other, and maybe a growing like as well.


Events for the Week of 4/30/2019

  • SEARCH Homecoming Dinner - Tuesday, April 30, 2019 - Volunteer + Sign Up to Bring Dishes or Home Items
  • Shabbat at Interfaith Ministries - Friday, May 3, 2019 - More info + Sponsor an Oneg - Please consider bringing a nosh to share!
  • Annual Meeting + Shabbat - Friday, May 17, 2019 - More Info
  • Saturday Morning Shabbat + Torah Study - Saturday, May 18, 2019 - More Info
  • Rock 'n' Roll Shabbat, Starring Kelly Dean, Jeremy Samuels & Lenny Golub - Friday, May 24, 2019 - Save the date!
Sat, August 8 2020 18 Av 5780