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Home From the President President's Message - January 2019
President's Message - January 2019 PDF Print E-mail
At the December Shabbat Family service approximately 75 Congregants and friends joined together for a wonderful Hanukkah celebration with  prayer, song, latkes and brisket. Most of all we once again were a community, a family of families who came together to celebrate how the Maccabees’ fought against the forced assimilation of  Jews into the Seleucid empire. I thank Rabbi Emanuel for organizing and conducting the family service as well as working with the guitarist to bring an invigorating upbeat vibe to the service.  A special thanks to Venita Crow, David Jacobs, Mari Randolph and Linda Bustillo for the  preparing the 4 briskets, over 250 latkes, and the Hanukkah decorations. I will declare the evening a wonderful success as most of the food was eaten and the atmosphere in the room was filled with wonderful conversation and laughter.

The following Shabbat service was attended by approximately 20 or so people which is more in line with our usual 20-35 Shabbat Service attendees. As you might expect I and others in the Congregation recognize service attendance in most churches and synagogues is generally declining in the United states and elsewhere. I am concerned about our attendance but I am more concerned about a much larger related issue –how do we individually and as a congregation identify ourselves as Jews? As American Jews we are very fortunate to be able to live comfortable and often affluent lives. However, unlike in past generations we can go through our daily lives without giving any thought to our Jewish identity and practices. The pessimists contend that if this trend continues, we will have as a people accomplished what the Maccabees successfully fought to prevent—complete assimilated of the Jewish people into the general culture with little distinction except for birth or adopting Judaism by choice.

Jews have survived over 5,000 years because we have always been part of an acculturation process in which we religiously and culturally made adjustment so we could survive as a Jewish people amidst  non-Jewish majority cultures. Although change has taken place acculturation has always demanded that we keep the major truths of Judaism. Examples would be God, Torah, literacy, Israel, care for other Jews, concern and care for the poor, prayer, defending the Jewish people from assaults from outsiders, sustaining the Jewish community, willing to fight or relocate to avoid conversion, questioning others and treating people fairly, respectfully and justly. The challenge today is to determine how we balance our acculturation process into American culture by finding ways to understand and practice the basic tenets of Judaism so that we are not completely  assimilation into society and lose our identity as a Jewish people. 

Acculturation requires intentional change which is not always easy or accepted by all community members but we have done it for many years. Let’s use  Hanukkah as an example and three major symbols of the Holiday- Gifts, Dreidel and Latkes. The emphasis on gifts came in response to Christmas, Dreidel  was a 16th century Irish gambling game and latkes were made by Poles long before Jews migrated to central Europe. These well-known symbols of Hanukkah were all adopted over time as part of our Jewish acculturation process 

As we begin the new year CBI will be taking an in depth look at how we can provide the spiritual, educational, and cultural programs and services that will best serve our diverse Coastal Bend Jewish Community. You will be asked to complete at least one major survey  and will have the opportunity  to attend meetings to discuss the results of the survey and your vision for CBE. In essence we will be discovering how you individually and we as a congregation will define our Jewish identity in the future. Your participation is critical to the success of the process and the future of Congregation Beth Israel. 

Wishing all of you a healthy, happy and prosperous new year.
Jim Gold, CBI President 



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