“It feels nice to be invited.” Six words. Spoken to me by a congregant attending our Chai Plus Event combined with the Shuly Nathan Concert and reception this past Saturday evening. Chai Plus is not an exclusive club, nor a committee, nor a thing to do. It is just a subset of our TBA congregants who have been members for 18 years or longer. And each of them received a party favor of a Chai chocolate with their free admission at the welcome table. Capping a week chock full of seasonal celebrations and lifecycle events, over 75 TBA guests filled our Social Hall decorated in cabaret style. In the glow of hurricane lanterns, while munching on apricots and almonds, we celebrated Havdalah. We ushered in a new week amidst caring friends of many generations. We were serenaded by Shuly Natan, a lovely singer who brought Israeli culture and history to life with her charming narration and familiar warm, melodies including “Jerusalem of Gold.”
During intermission, Rabbi Holtz and Cantor Goldberg honored our long time members by asking them to raise their hands. Rabbi asked, “How many of you have been part of TBA for 18 years? 20 years? 30 years?” and up until “50 years?” After pausing for inspired applause he moved on, only to be interrupted. “Excuse us, Rabbi, you stopped too soon.” Indeed, we have folks who have been part of TBA for 60, 70, and even 80 years. People who have been members their entire lives. We all chanted the Shehecheyanu in appreciation and gratitude for reaching this season.
As I sat with Board members and parents of teens, I was overcome by this meaningful moment. Men and women, grandparents and singles, widows and widowers, Reform, Conservative and interfaith Jews, survivors and sustainers, have all given consistently and selflessly. Chai Plus folks have ensured that Temple Beth Abraham thrives as a Jewish community of connection, of religious learning, and practice. And I thank you from my heart, for making it possible that our daughter, Molly has TBA, that she views as her second home, in Tarrytown, where she will soon become a Bat Mitzvah.
We then enjoyed a catered Oneg dessert reception, getting to enjoy the camaraderie. Late in the evening the room was filled with admiration and inspiration. These three hours were among my favorite of the year at Temple.
And I know that we are all invited: to participate, to be Chai Plus, filled with life and meaning as we give– not just to a building– but to each other in this sacred community.