I am very proud that 4 of our current congregants entered into the political fray that played out on Election Day on Tuesday. Doing so, regardless of party affiliation, subjects one to attacks and scrutiny. As I have often shared, politics is just one way that we observe the Biblical mandate to pursue justice. Mazel Tov to Jeff Wright, Donna DiMeo, Bruce Roth, and Jack Enco.
I am often honored with the task of sharing our congregation’s history with others. The story always goes back to Joseph Simon (although, truth be told, people are generally more intrigued when we they hear the name Isaac Nunez Henriques!) Simon was a successful business man, a figure in the local community, a slave owner, a part of the Gratz family, and the patriarch of the Jewish community. Yes, his story is complex. When it came to the Jewish community, he was a visionary. The cemetery was bequeathed by him to the Jewish community of Lancaster, even though when Simon died, there was no remaining Jewish community. After his death, it would be over 50 years until our congregation actually came into existence.
And that’s what we will be celebrating next Shabbat, November 18. It is (roughly) the anniversary of our being granted our state charter in 1856. Several years ago, the Archives Committee, chaired by Ellen Pike, established Charter Shabbat, one Shabbat each November that honors different aspects of our history. For me, though, most of the time we are really celebrating the same thing, the vision of our leaders over all these years, the vision to see beyond their own eras, to leave the next generation “standing on our shoulders” to build an even better future.
Part of that future, as we continue to add new members and new students to Sh’arim, is the addition of Ben Wachstein to our staff as out first ever executive director. What better way to honor our visionary history than by including a tribute to Ben in our celebration of Charter Shabbat. On the 18th, Ben will be honored with an aliyah, and we will have the chance to ask God to bless him as he begins his time with our congregation. In just over 3 months, he has shown his love of Judaism, and his ability to see things differently, enabling us to re-examine things of vital importance. I look forward to our continued partnership as we work for the best of the members of our Kehillah Kedoshah, our sacred community.
I hope you’ll join us for services tonight, but I especially hope you’ll be here next week to honor our past and celebrate our future.
Shabbat Shalom u’m’vorach. Have a Shabbat of peace and blessing. And let’s remember the veterans in our congregation and in our country who served our country.
Jack P. Paskoff,