The celebration was a total surprise to me and my wife Sue.
During Oneg Shabbat (lunch after the morning Sabbath service), Josh, one of our Ruach Israel teens got up, and pretending to be me, asked the entire congregation to please finish eating and to move back into the sanctuary. There was to be a" special program" about which he and others seemed to anticipate. It took a few more minutes for us to catch on.
The program was a celebration, kept under wraps for months, for our 30 years of service to the synagogue. There were special songs written for the occasion, a nice gift, a giant card, a special dance, benign fun-poking at the rabbi and heart-warming expressions of gratitude. Sue and I came away with this overarching sense: "Congregational leadership since 1981 had been challenging in many ways, but overall, fabulously worth the effort. What terrific people! How kind and thoughtful they are!"
What remains of the passion which guided our exodus from Chicago to Boston three decades ago in our little over-packed Subaru, with two babies in tow? In truth, much remains, though the passion of two twenty-something's has morphed and matured into something a bit different.
In those early days our energies and attention were focused on one thing: survival as a radically different kind of synagogue. We and our early members were a marginalized little group meeting in a stuffy hotel room - a reputed rendezvous point for hookers and businessmen. There were no children other than our two, a three year old and one year old. Our little community was liturgically weak, theologically immature and wondered monthly how the bills would be paid. We were unknown to both Boston's Jewish and Christian communities and really, unknown to ourselves.
We had a long way to go. But, as a young rabbi, I was convinced that Messianic Judaism, despite its many immaturities, was the most exciting development in the modern religious world. For me, truth is the energy of passion - and I was convinced that Yeshua was the Messiah and that Jewish life was important to God. I was passionate about turning these ideas into reality in Bean Town. We were committed to stay and make it work.
Today, Ruach Israel's mere existence in no longer my primary concern. Our building in Needham will be paid off in eight months. I've got two terrific young men who will soon receive Smichah (ordination) and who will help me guide the synagogue spiritually. Our Synagogue Board is top notch. Thanks to the Messianic Jewish Rabbinical Council, our members are no longer in the dark about a growing number of areas of acceptable Jewish practice. There are children aplenty, creating that joyful chaos which says, "Yes... Life is here!"
Mere existence is no longer the source of my passion, but seeing to it that there will be a next generation of Messianic Jewish lay and professional leaders, to serve around the world. In June I will be 60 years old. I've asked God for 30 more years to help bring this into reality. I hope to serve this synagogue for many years to come, but our movement needs new leadership to carry us forward.
I am not alone here. The Rabbis and Associate Members of the MJRC share this passion, as do the staff of the Messianic Jewish Theological Institute and the leaders of the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations. We are all passionate to see a next generation of leaders who can stand on our shoulders and go far beyond us in spiritual power, learning and love.
Our three year old son and one year old daughter who journeyed with us to Boston in 1981 now have their own families and are members of the synagogue in which they grew up. Respectively, they each happen to have a son - a three year old and a one year old. A third grandchild is on the way and I remain passionate - passionate to see this fabulous, unlikely, perplexing faith we call Messianic Judaism carried forward "dor l'dor"... for generations to come.