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Here to Stay

05/06/2015 11:35:25 AM


Rabbi George Gittleman

According to Jewish tradition, the only prayers that are said in the Olam Habah/World to Come are prayers of gratitude. If that is the case, then I must have died and gone to heaven!

I am blessed with family, community, the beauty and benefit of living in Sonoma County, and work I truly love. It’s not just the work that I enjoy; I love you, Shomrei Torah! Ok, it’s not all a walk in the park; we have our moments of challenge and struggle. But when you weigh the pros and cons, the balance is overwhelmingly positive—for me, my family and, I hope, for Shomrei Torah.

Why the gush of good feeling now? Because Shomrei Torah, represented by your leadership, the Board of Directors, and I recently signed a long-term agreement that commits us both to each other for at least the next 13 years.

This decision did not happen overnight, nor was it taken lightly. We both thought we would end up here, but we needed time to make sure a long-term relationship was good for everyone. For me it was a great opportunity to reflect on what we have accomplished, what I love about Shomrei Torah, and what the future may hold for us.

No doubt we have accomplished a lot. In short, we have built a community with the necessary structures both physical and organizational for its support and growth. On a deeper level we have created a Makom, a place where the Divine can rest and be realized, recognized, encountered through prayer, study, fellowship, and Gimilut Hassadim/Acts of loving kindness. As we said last month at our Seders, Dayenu/This would be enough. But there is more. Connected to the Makom we have built are the quality of the relationships longstanding connections foster. I know this is not true for everyone and it may be unrealistic to expect all of us to connect in a deep way, but my sincere wish is that everyone could share in the depth of relationship that is possible when we are at our best.

To prepare a 12-year-old boy for his Bar Mitzvah, then officiate at his wedding, and then be present for the brit and baby naming of his twins and the conversion to Judaism of his spouse is a mechayah/something to live for, and it’s an honor that leaves me…well… speechless. To watch children grow and be able to connect inter-generationally, l’dor v’dor/from one generation to the next, is both a gift and an opportunity I cherish. There is a more sobering side to such a long-term relationship: in the past 19 years we’ve about filled our section of Santa Rosa Memorial Park. Loss is accumulative; it does not get easier over time. It hurts to reflect on all our friends, past leaders, dear ones with whom I have walked, at least part of the way, through the “valley of the shadow of death”. You can’t have one without the other–being present for the whole life cycle is as meaningful and profound an opportunity as any I can imagine, and it’s another reason I wanted to continue my commitment to you long-term.

I do have some concerns going forward. I don’t want the relationship to get stale and to that end I challenge you to keep challenging me. Longevity should not mean complacency. Rabbi Michael Robinson is a good role model here. Up until his 80th year, before he was overcome with cancer, he would say, “I am a work in progress,” and he meant it. That is my commitment to you, to be a work in progress, to continue to grow, learn and stay open to the challenges and the opportunities of the present and the promise of the future.

Thank you Shomrei Torah for 19 great years and your confidence going forward.
Hazak, hazak v’nithazek/May we go from strength to strength!

Rabbi George

Mon, August 10 2020 20 Av 5780