Shalom. With one word, we say hello and goodbye, wishing each other peace and well-being. At camp we sing “Heiveinu Shalom Aleichem.” And as we think of leaving and new beginnings, we wish the blessings of well-being upon each other.
As I spoke to the board at the May meeting, I realized that I had attended somewhere around 180 Board Meetings and conducted somewhere close to 850 Friday night services. Looking at the Kaddish lists each Friday, I see so many names of people with whom I interacted and whose memories will follow me. And for sure, I will maintain many relationships as move to Toledo.
I’ve worked with some tremendous people over the years, some of whom I count among my closest friends. I’ve celebrated happy times and mourned many times as well. I have been a part of many of your lives and so many of you have left an indelible impression on mine or will continue to be an active part of my life in years to come.
With the internet and virtual programming, sometimes it may even seem that I never left. Perhaps, I will see you online? Perhaps, in person in Toledo or when I am able to return here to visit, which will not be infrequently. I bring many fond memories and dear relationships with me.
Our congregation and our community have done well over the years in the face of growing challenges. Antisemitism is on the rise, not just in places where it has been traditionally found, but in new places, even among those we have considered friendly to us. Fewer young adults are motivated to join congregations. Fewer people give to Jewish institutions and often give less as a percentage of their income than they once did. The American Jewish community and Israel seem to be on divergent paths in many ways. Finally, we have yet to discover what the long term impacts of COVID will be on Jewish life. Yet, through all these, we have been able to sustain a high level of communal strength, of programming, of membership, and of philanthropy. The years ahead seem to promise to be increasingly challenging for congregations and for the Jewish community. We will have to increase our commitments.
Personally, this past year has been a good one for our family as well. Julie and I are excited to say that our daughter Hanna is now engaged and will be married in July of 2022. She is also looking forward to going to medical school going forward with the thought of becoming a surgeon. Our daughter Ellie just finished her plebe year at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis and will be studying Aerospace Engineering with an eye on the upcoming Mars Mission. And our son Avi graduated from Valley High School and will be attending the University of Iowa in the fall, studying computer science and physics.
I’ve had some health scares over the past couple of years, but have come through them well and finished two half marathons this past Summer and Fall.
As I move on in my rabbinate from Des Moines, I wish you all the best. May you move from strength to strength.
Rabbi David Kaufman