Thursday, October 18, 2012

Grateful for a gem in the crown

I have just returned from spending almost six weeks in Spokane,Washington. I was invited for the High Holyday period to lend support to a colleague recovering from cancer treatment.
The congregation consists of about 200 families which occupies a beautiful synagogue structure and spacious educational building containing the most up to date equipment and convenience.
For the first time in my life, I was exposed to the beauty, spaciousness and grandeur of America's west. It was nothing less than a religious experience.The sea of evergreens, the majestic moutain tops, vast stretches of seared yellow fields which wave in the summer winds bursting with wheat stalks to feed a prosperous America, and luscious lakes and rivers bubbling  with salmon  making their  inexorable journey to their destined end,  the fisherman's hook and nest.
This is the crown of beauty which drapes the fortunate citizens of this blessed country.
The gem in this crown is the Jewish community of Spokane. The only significant Jewish presence in a radius of hundreds of miles in either direction-Seattle being 300 miles away on the west and Minneapolis, over a thousand, on the east.
One could say that this community is indeed a lonely one. Ironically, its isolation is its strength. Never before had I felt the utter value of each and every member of the community. The larger numbers elsewhere leave the impression that each resident in the community is easily replaceable by the many others. In Spokane the individual is a dominant factor in creating community. The need for one another is inescapable and imperative so that everyone recognizes the importance of everyone else.
During services, Hebrew school classes and assemblies, one could not ignore the powerful sense of family that infuses this community.
The shared intimacy and closeness was readily offered to me as everyone opened their hearts, hands and homes to me without restraint or reservation. I quickly felt at home and consider Spokane and Temple Beth Shalom as another of my cherished  Jewish homes on my particular journey through life.
I pray for their well-being, their Jewish growth and their continued gratitude for every single member of their extended family.