Our wonderful Jewish community in Boulder has been going through more transition in a short period of time than seems possible. We remain very impacted by the flood, with Bonai Shalom at least still months away from returning to our home. Rabbi Tirzah Firestone has retired from Nevei Kodesh, Rabbi Gavriel Goldfeder and his family moved to Massachusetts where he took a job at Hillel at MIT and and his departure left Aish Kodesh without a rabbi, and another colleague and friend is contemplating a move to another community. An announcement last week indicates that Aish Kodesh is going through a major transition and its future is unclear, at least in its current form. All in all, the face of our vibrant, collaborative, creative Jewish community is changing rapidly, and suddenly I am poised to step into my rabbinic leadership in a different way.
I have been wondering what all of these changes might mean for us as a community and for me personally; how we see ourselves, how we imagine and dream of our community as we move into the future. MLK weekend is upon us when we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy and we hear his voice orating his iconic “I have a dream” speech. What are our dreams, Jewish Boulder? Dr. King said that August day in 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial, “we cannot walk alone…we cannot turn back.”
This Shabbat we read Parashat Yitro, where the whole community of Israel stand at Sinai and receive the Torah, each individual and each group hearing and experiencing what they need to and what they are able to; each with their own version of the truth. Our tradition tells us that there were two Torahs transmitted on that quaking mountain, one written and one oral. These booming words continue to vibrate their messages, their charges and their complex narratives to us throughout the mists of history and the generations to this moment, to a Jewish community in Boulder, Colorado standing in the foothills of the mountain once more. What do we hear? How do we renew the covenant and become bnei brit, daughters and sons of that covenant? The rabbis tell us that the Torah has seventy faces, which really means that none of us has the full version of the truth and that the interpretive tradition unfolds in every moment defining who we are and how we are called.
Our community has been defined by collaboration and partnership; our JCC hosts a forum for the community to gather and explore; Haver, Boulder’s Rabbinical Fellowship, co-creates programs and celebrations and provides a unified rabbinic voice; JT Boulder (Jewish Together Boulder, a program of 18 Pomegranates and now the Boulder Jewish Community Foundation) challenges us to expand our visions and dreams beyond what we might think possible for our small community.
In this post-flood, shifting leadership reality in which we find ourselves, one thing is so clear to me; we cannot walk alone. My dream is that we will find the courage to redefine our Jewish community and find more and more ways to work together, rather than in our own silos. Am echad, lev echad – one people with one heart. One people with multiple expressions of practice, belief and identity all held with love and respect, where every individual is valued and seen. There are parts of our community that have been fractured, where there is a strong need for healing and reconciliation and this moment is demanding of us that we deeply listen to each other with open hearts.
This generation is seeing again and again that the old paradigms of Jewish community are failing, traditional institutions no longer relevant to the lives of many contemporary Jews. We need to be covenantal Jews, or in Dr. Ron Wolfson’s language, “relational Jews,” allowing the power of our relationships to transform the fabric of community. Can you imagine with me a future center of intentional Jewish life with a few different options of prayer experiences from very traditional to very creative? A model where a genuine commitment to klal Yisrael, the collective community of Israel, is greater than a commitment to a particular, denominational ideology? As we stand once again at the mountain, let us witness the fullness of who we can be in the future, transcending all that divides us and creating authentic space for all of us to gather in ways that are true for us as part of one deeply connected community. I have a dream.