Shortly before Rosh Hashanah, the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue community enjoyed the fortunate opportunity to welcome Sam Amiel and Michael Novick, who both work with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, to Bellingham. They shared with us a number of current projects of “the Joint” and, through photos and stories, offered us a reminder of the isolation and vulnerability of some of our Jewish brothers and sisters around the world.
I left the gathering feeling moved and inspired. Jewish tradition’s statement, Kol Yisrael arevim zeh bazeh — all Israel is responsible one to another — declared itself with both descriptive as well as prescriptive power and authority. The evening made a helpful contribution to my High Holy Day spiritual preparations.
It is extraordinary that Jewish communities throughout the world, in time zone after time zone, announced the arrival of the year 5771 with the sounding of the shofar. We joyfully celebrate the completion of the annual cycle of our reading of the Torah, and this Shabbat, in synagogues throughout the world, we will read of the world’s beginnings from the start of the book of Bereshit of the Torah once again. How awesome! The worldwide web of Jewish peoplehood really does amaze me.
Moreover, in this time of growing polarization and incivility — in the Jewish world and in our American society — it is important to remember our collective responsibility and to recommit to participate in projects that strengthen our sense of interconnection. There are many ways to cultivate a network of connection. One way is to reach out and establish relationships and shared experiences outside our particular home communities.
In that spirit, I would like to invite those JTNews readers who live outside of Whatcom County to come visit us at Congregation Beth Israel in Bellingham. (Whatcom County residents are heartily welcomed, too). As our history provides, Congregation Beth Israel was officially established in October 1908, when incorporation papers were filed with the State of Washington — an act that formalized the religious organization and ongoing activities of 25-30 Jewish families in Bellingham. Initially Orthodox in practice, Beth Israel gradually progressed to a more Conservative-style worship and eventually affiliated with the Reform Movement of Judaism.
Now in our 102nd year and with more than 200 member households, we strive to create and maintain a variety of entryways into Jewish living, learning, contribution and expression. Our mission statement reads: “Congregation Beth Israel is a diverse and inclusive synagogue affiliated with the Union for Reform Judaism and committed to a tradition that honors both Jewish continuity and innovation. We warmly welcome people into our vibrant community, dedicated to the study of Torah and creative Jewish learning, joyous and meaningful worship, and engaging in the sacred obligation of tikkun olam, repair of the world. As inheritors of a rich past and creators of a future full of possibility, we continually seek new opportunities to support each other in participating and growing Jewishly.”
As a synagogue community, we love to welcome visitors. Hospitality is one of our core teachings and values. We’d love to welcome you. Whether for a Shabbat service and meal, for weekly Torah study or another educational or social program, please consider a visit with us sometime this year. We’d be delighted to make new connections and strengthen existing relationships with friends from around the area. Bellingham is 90 miles north of Seattle and 20 miles south of the Canadian border. Whatcom County is beautiful, and there is much here to explore and enjoy.
A new year has begun. May 5771 be a year of support for and appreciation of our deep and precious networks of interconnection!