I am fond of the story of the kindergarten student furiously coloring on a piece of paper. She had been asked by the teacher to draw anything she wished to imagine. As the teacher walked by the young student, the teacher asked: What are you drawing? To which the student responded, I am drawing a picture of God. The teacher exclaimed, but no one knows what God looks like. To which the student swiftly responded, they will know once I finish !
Another brilliant and beautiful DHJC year is drawing to a close, and this year has been a masterpiece ! And as we segue way into summertime, an even more exciting year of events, celebrations and programs will commence. In the pages of this DHJC yearbook are photos, images, memories and narratives which frame the dynamic life of our community. In the fast paced world in which we live, DHJC is your Jewish home, a sacred space and a joyous place to share life cycle events, friendships, life long learning as well as social events and Shabbat and holiday celebrations. We are your extended family and this year in review is an inspiring retrospective of what we have shared and how our faith has touched, strengthened and deepened our journeys in life.
We have together painted a year of rich blessings deeply etched in the portraits of our souls. The prodigious amounts of sheleg / snow this past winter painted our world bright white, but the warmth of DHJC was felt at our daily minyan. Our prayers in the beautiful Julian Sandler Minyan Chapel are the heart and soul of DHJC. Neither rain, nor snow stayed our minyan women and men from their appointed rounds of the camaraderie and faith of our morning and evening prayers. Why not in this coming year, come by and stay and pray – the dividends are divine!
Dazzling touches of color were the hallmarks of our holiday celebrations. Unrolling a Torah scroll into the hands of hundred of congregants on Simhat Torah is a sight to behold Literally, we hold the Torah in our hands and uplift the scroll from the ark in the sanctuary as the scroll stretches to the bar in the cocktail room . The joy of Torah is ours not only to hold and behold, but to observe and fulfill.
Splashes of sparkling joy brightened our DHJC year on Purim as the megillah reading was attended by more than five hundred of all ages. The strength of our community is found in the celebrations we share. From costumed children to masquerading adults, we cheered the triumph of Purim in a fun and boisterous fashion. The recent peak moment of Shavuot engaged our community in Torah study until midnight with a team of talented DHJC scholars – with cheesecake on tap and a feast of study sessions . Each day of Shavuot embraced the gift of Torah and welcomed newborns, congratulated graduates and honored our cadre of Torah readers, prayer leaders and those from post-b’nai mitzvah to octogenarians involved in creating our precious prayers all throughout the year. Most of all, our sanctuary was filled with song and prayer – and people celebrating - each festival day !
The tapestry of joyous moments is also found in the strength of our Shabbat times. Our Friday evening prayers are seven pm are warm and engaging along with the celebrations each Shabbat mornings and our great kiddushes that follow and the gifted moments of our Shabbat afternoon prayers at sundown weekly. God is always found in the midst of our prayers – where can you be found on Shabbat which is the day for the rest of our lives, a day to be unplugged from technology and a remarkable opportunity to plug into family, faith and festivities.
Scrolling through the portraits of our year are creative images crafted by our Men’s Club and Sisterhood led respectively by our talented leadership team of Mark Nachman and Kerri Cohen and Vicki Weinstein . Engaging moments and social opportunities await at every Sisterhood and Men’s Club event.
Our annual gala and the honorees that evening and on Simhat Torah afford us the opportunity to pause and thank our magnificent mentors, our fellow congregants as they lead by personal example by doing, donating, davening and dreaming for the magical future that is ours. Our Social Action and Bikkur Holim (groups that visits the ill and recovering) teams have galvanized us in the endeavor of the mitzvah of helping others. From mitzvah day to food collections, we are led by kindness and altruism. We also look forward over the summer to finish our fundraising on behalf of Magen David Adom, Israel’s Red Cross as we purchase an ambulance for Israel. Please visit our newly enhanced DHJC website to help us reach this meritorious goal.
Our very first artist in residence at DHJC wonderfully illuminated the artistry of this year. Mordechai Rosenstein spent five days at DHJC coaxing out our artistic talents and sharing with us his wisdom through his artwork – including the magnificent Megillah that DHJC commissioned from him seven years ago and now is prominently displayed in our lobby.
We have created bright images though wedding celebrations, namings and brises, b’nai mitzvah and anniversaries of all kinds – and family celebrations. Pause for a moment and reflect upon not only the struggles, challenges, illnesses and losses of the past year, but revel in the sweet moments and gifted blessings that we have been fortunate to share. Every great painting is realistic precisely due to the technique of shadowing, ye the brilliance of the art is found in the spectrum of vivid colors and not in the darkness of shadows.
The primary colors in the palette of the DHJC are our children and we are always proud of them. They are engaged in Jewish learning, living and enthusiasm from our USY and Kadima youth group members as well as SHMA and J Team High School programs. We salute our Religious School Principal, Ricky Tadmor and her talented faculty, and their creative programs. We celebrate our Pre-School Director Mona Ives for her thirteen years of dedicated and magnificent stewardship – and she will be missed by her legions of students and incomparable and nurturing faculty as she retires. We warmly welcome Melanie Witkes as she assumes the leadership of the DHJC Early Childhood Academy and guides our families and faculties to new dynamics of excellence.
Cantor Hevenstone created a wonderful spring concert truly enhanced by the talented members of our youth glee club . Song is part of the artistry of Jewish life and we thank of the sweet singers of our community !
Above all, the masterpieces that we paint all year long are inspired by the visions of our leadership team, beginning with wisdom of Michael Kessler, our DHJC President, the officers and Board and the dynamism of Ed Ward, our Executive Director. Our community and I thank you individually and collectively. Our Adult Jewish Studies chaired by Gail Jospa brought a renewed CHAI semesters back to DHJC and the wisdom of so many professors from JTS. Our weekly Jewish Studies engage one hundred members – be open to the possibilities and check out our Summer Studies and Shabbat summer scholars all noted on-line at dhjc.org
One vision that Michael painted beginning with his remarks on Rosh Hashanah is to insure that we are always a warm and embracing community. We have and continue to unconditionally welcome the Commack Jewish Center family. We are weaving their talents, history and strengths into our DHJC family. We look forward over this summer to celebrating this merger, which enhances every aspect of our DHJC experience. We are doubling the capacity of our Garden Room family services to insure ample room for all on the High Holy Days. Above all, from my classes to Shabbat and holiday prayers, the CJC family knows that they have found a welcome home at DHJC and we look forward to the benefits that this merger brings to all of us.
In addition, I thank the DHJC family for the precious moments we share daily as we inspire, strengthen, support and share wisdom with one another. I also am grateful for the opportunity earlier this year to embark upon a sabbatical period of studies, travels and a personal exploration of the wellsprings of our faith, most especially in the time I spent in Israel. I am grateful to Reb David Rosenberg, our Ritual Chair and the depth and breadth of a talented and gracious team of dedicated congregants who daily insured that every aspect of DHJC was successfully attended to during my Sabbatical period. Todah Rabbah !
Beginning with this summer we look forward to invigorating Jewish studies, Shabbat and daily prayer experiences that are joyous – be a part of our community, as opposed to being apart from our Jewish experiences. The fall holds exciting social events and mitzvah opportunities. Continue to help us welcome the Commack Jewish Center family and don’t miss our Shabbat of Welcoming on July 31 and August 1 as well as our Summer Fest @ DHJC on August 30 – live music and a fun barbeque for all ! Permit me to encourage you to explore Jewish travel sights this summer – and DHJC Jewish journeys planned for next year. Use your time wisely and see wonderful Jewish films and read great Jewish books – and look for our summer and fall film series and book reviews too.
DHJC has created a magical past year and now we open new portals of joyous Jewish moments in this new year to be. We cannot spell synagogue without U as we need your participation, talents and openness to our celebrations. Become DHJC ambassador and encourage your neighbors to share our values.
The kindergarten girl in the aforementioned story promised to paint a picture of God. In the year behind us, we have painted a picture of a caring Jewish community dedicated to Torah and tradition, engaging learning and leadership, participation and prayer, fun and faith! We have crafted thousands of smiles on hundreds of occasions and healed with love and solace broken hearts when needed. There is no better portrait of God than in the smiles and love that is DHJC. May this summer and new year bring bright blessings to all as we paint the love of God into our world.
With warmest regards and soulful blessings from Yael & Yair, Aviva, Hillel, Elie, Noam, Laura and myself ! Shalom, Rabbi Howard R. Buechler