“All beginnings are difficult.” So wrote Chaim Potok.
So are endings.
Why? Because it’s tough to say goodbye.
Although the year that has passed has been so unusual is so many ways, nonetheless I have found myself embraced by your warmth. While not knowing exactly what to expect when I first arrived at Temple B’nai Jeshurun, I quickly discovered a congregation with a rich history, a proud tradition, one with open arms and hearts…and a willingness to travel on an uncharted path with a (as then) unknown rabbi.
I am grateful for your trust as we traversed a strange and new landscape. I am appreciative of your generosity when I stepped on tradition’s (or your) toes accidentally. I am moved by the volunteers who stepped up – in prayer, in programming, in leadership – to make this year the success that it was. So…I say to each of you, “Thank you.”
Part of my job this past year – beyond being your rabbi for life-cycles, counseling, friendship, prayer, and teaching – has been to be your “interim rabbi” – to guide you along a parallel path…one of healing, of understanding, and (now) of anticipation for what comes next in the life of TBJ. During this year, I have listened carefully to your stories. Some were filled with nostalgia. In some, pain was shared. In others, there was hope for the future. In each and every story I heard, though, a single thread was present: a love for this community and a desire for it to be the very best it can be. That message inspired me. And convinced me that Temple B’nai Jeshurun is on a healthy path.
Part of what made this year so special has been the partners with whom I have been privileged to work: first and foremost, our dedicated staff: David Muenchrath, Erin Plank, Wendy Beckerman, and Charles Stanton. These are special souls, each of whom care deeply for this community; second, I thank our volunteer leadership, shepherded so ably by Dana Dickson, our congregational president. We are so grateful for their dedication to us. Each has been there to assist whenever I have asked. Dana, especially, has been a true force of good and caring for this community; and finally, I thank those who were my “tefillah partners,” (Sam Miller, Tara Starr, Ira Lacher, Sally Frank, John Zieman, Chuck Kuba). Their talents and time have been gifts of immense worth to me and to all of us. All three – our staff, our volunteer leaders, our tefillah team – have been audacious and awesome partners.
I know that Rabbi Neal Schuster will be equally blessed as he becomes your rabbi. And – in turn – he will be a fabulous partner for you as you navigate your way forward. Having known him as a rabbi and a friend for over 19 years, I am confident that your partnership in the months and years to come will be fruitful for you, for him, and for the Des Moines Jewish and general communities. I am excited to following your shared journey.
For me, though, my journey with you comes to a close in a few brief weeks. I hope you will consider being with us on Friday, June 24, during our Erev Shabbat service. Then, I will offer my final words of appreciation to you. It will warm my soul to see you and thank you personally.
A friend once said that endings are just opportunities for new beginnings. That will be true for you and for me. Whatever my next “beginning” might be, know that I will carry fond memories of being a part of your lives even for this briefest of times. And once more, thank you for that precious opportunity!
Rabbi Arthur Nemitoff