Looking to the Future

by Rabbi Lee Friedlander

Dear Friends,

About forty years ago, the educational arm of the Reform Movement featured Reconstructionist Judaism in a monthly periodical directed to high school students.  To illustrate Reconstructionism in practice, the editors chose a photograph taken from the back of members of our congregation spreading their talitot over the shoulders of the people standing on either side of them.  That same photograph, which dates back at least fifty years, could still be snapped during any Shabbat or holiday morning service at that point in the amida when we turn to bless one another as we sing the words ascribed to Aaron 3200 years ago. This ritual, which has been embraced by many other congregations in our Movement, is our community’s link in the chain from the Quaker Meeting House in Manhasset, to the Willow Street School in Roslyn, to our present home in Plandome. Jodie, Eric, and I have included this synagogue ritual in many of our life cycle ceremonies as well.  It has, indeed, inspirited every generation in the history of our community.

The photograph came clearly into focus a fortnight ago when I witnessed Solomon Hoffman graduate from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College.  As one of the afternoon’s rites of passage, each student was wrapped in a tallit by the colleagues standing at their sides.  Then after the president of the College ordained them, the students from next year’s graduating class encircled the new rabbis with a Torah scroll that was rolled to the priestly blessing while the assembled chanted a niggun composed by Solomon.

Mordecai Kaplan released Judaism from the hierarchy of the hereditary priesthood 100 years ago, but he preserved the words of the Aaron’s blessing in our liturgy.  Seeing Solomon and his fellow graduates surrounded by the Torah open to the same words, and knowing that he and they will carry them forward in their rabbinate, was a glimpse into the eternal continuity of the Jewish People.

As we continue to bless one another at RSNS, so may Solomon be a blessing to the generations to come.  With joy and renewed hope for the future, I am, as always, warmly,