Reflections on Our First Year Together

A very special, loving, and warm community

In so many ways, it’s hard to believe that it’s June already. The time has gone so quickly. It seems only yesterday that I accepted the invitation of the Board of Trustees and the Rabbinic Search Committee to serve as the Rabbi of Moses Montefiore Temple. The Placement Director of the Central Conference of American Rabbis had suggested to me that I apply to MMT. He told me I would love it here, and that it was the perfect match. Driving here for my second interview, I wasn’t so sure. I didn’t know if I could see past all the corn fields to find the Temple. But from the moment I arrived I felt a good, strong connection, and believed that this community could truly become my home, both spiritually and physically.

When I look back over the first few months, I am amazed at how many people opened their homes and their hearts to me. People I hadn’t even met invited me to stay in their homes since I did not yet have a place to live. So many of you hosted me for Shabbat dinners, and had Meet ’N Greets in your homes so I could get to know you and many others from the Temple. And when I was driving up here with all those carloads of stuff, and storing every-thing in the religious school classrooms for the summer, so many of you helped me unload the car each time. You dropped in to the office to say hello and welcome. You brought plants and goodies that were so incredibly appre-ciated. But most importantly, you brought your hearts and souls. You were so warm and welcoming and caring. You made me feel at home immediately.
Of course, there are always a few minor challeng-es. It took a while before I could find the Temple without my GPS! And I very clearly remember trying to drive to George and Myra Gordon’s house for the first time. The MMT Directory listing said “Kent, N.” I don’t want to tell you how long I spent trying to find Kent Drive North! Who knew “N” meant Normal????? When I went to the Loy’s for a Meet ‘N Greet, I was thrilled to pass a Schnucks on the way there. I marked it on my GPS and gratefully realized I now knew where there was a grocery store!

This year has been a year of transition and learning for all of us. It has been challenging, and sometimes frustrating. All new relationships are. But most of all, I believe it has been an exciting year, filled with Jewish celebrations and Jewish community and Jewish learning. We’ve sung together, prayed together, learned together, cried together, and played together. It has been my honor to walk this journey with you through both the joyous and the heart-wrenching experiences of our lives. We’ve experimented with several new programs and ideas. And we’ve grown. Both in our sense of who we are and what we can accomplish, and in our numbers.

Some of my happiest memories from my first year……the one-on-one conversations we’ve had and mo-ments we’ve shared……High Holy Days and the emotions many of you expressed after services………my Installation and the love and support I felt from you that night. And the beautiful words written by Steve Bernstein and shared with us all. The efforts so many of you made, and honor of having Rabbi Talve join us….the very serious discussions held at the Board meetings, and later in the book clubs about Synagogue 3000 and our hopes and dreams for the commu-nity, your willingness to think out of the box, to participate in these soul searching meetings, and to dream of a unique and meaningful tomorrow……the incredible joy and amazing music as we celebrated Shabbat with Rick Recht……the awe at the talent shown by all our Purim Shpiel stars and the fun we all had as we either participated in the Shpiel or watched it…..the excitement as we prepared for our first Super Bowl Party for the Homeless with Wesley United Methodist Church and as we hosted the Friends Forever Walk from the Mosque to the Synagogue, the joy we experi-enced first with Naomi leading our music, and later, as Hilary joined her voice to ours, and the amazing music we’ve all been making together ever since….welcoming so many of you to our new home during our first Open House ….traveling to St. Louis for a Zoo and Jewish Theater expe-rience, and just this week for a three day trip with our high school students…..and of course, sharing our wedding day with all of you, and feeling like we were celebrating with our family, that we had found our home, and that life is really good.

The Placement Director was right. You are a very special, loving, warm, community with incredible gifts and talents, all the potential in the world, and a willingness to experiment, grow, and learn. You are a community with a huge heart, a willingness to be involved and to care, and a desire to make the world a better place. You are good, kind, and caring. And as my first year comes to a close, I am very honored to be called to serve as your rabbi.

I look forward to beginning my second year, to con-tinuing to get to know you, to continuing to spend time with you both individually and communally, and to continuing this exciting Jewish Journey on which we have embarked together.