Shana Tova! I want to welcome you to our 60th year celebrating the High Holy Days as Congregation Solel, a  sacred community. I am humbled and honored to stand before you this year at Rosh Hashanah. It is a privilege and honor.

Rosh Hashanah is the head of the year. It is the anniversary of the day that God created humanity. Yom Kippur is the heart of the year. It is a day of forgiveness and reconciliation in which we examine ourselves honestly and pledge to be better.

Each year as summer comes to an end, fall creeps in, and children return to school, we as Jews reflect on the past year. We examine our behavior and think of how we can be better people by changing and growing in the year ahead. We commit to being more intentional and kind. In Judaism, we call this process Teshuva, the Jewish idea of return. Each Rosh Hashanah I personally return to a place of love, in my heart and soul, back to my childhood, sitting in shul with my grandfather as he recited and chanted each prayer from his heart, praying for himself, our family and the community to have a good, sweet year, and to be sealed for another year, in the book of life. During the process of Teshuva, we return and renew our connection with Adonai; from my grandfather’s perspective, nothing was more important or more meaningful.

As I look out in front of me tonight, I see a community, embodied in one congregation. Solel is a comforting, joyful, safe space that is filled with kindness and goodness. As one community we are hopeful that the year ahead will be better, that our world will be better, that we will be better.

It seems impossible to get through one day without hearing about tragic events in our world, the rise of anti-Semitism in Charlottesville, hurricane Harvey and hurricane Irma which disrupted and devastated the lives of many, North Korea continuing to launch missiles, bombs exploding in London’s underground, and people in our very own community living in fear that they or their families may be deported back to a country they have never called home. More than ever, we need to support each other. Together as a community, we have strength, courage and heart.

Congregation Solel is nothing short of wonderful! Our long-standing foundation is based on strong Jewish values and traditions that continue to connect us to our heritage. I am honored to have the opportunity to carry out the vision of our founders and the thirty past presidents that preceded me.

Kindness has been at the root of Judaism from the very beginning, and a large part of Jewish law is about treating people with kindness and respect. The most consistent, all-embracing act of faith is Chesed, which means loving-kindness, and implies the giving of oneself to helping another without regard to compensation. The culture of our community, to contribute financially and support education as part of the dues structure, is the true meaning of Chesed. After researching best practices in Jewish education, we began this new school year with a new name, a new logo, and new learning goals. At the heart of our community is education, so it is fitting that the new name of the school is Lev Solel, the heart of Solel!

If you walk into the building on a Sunday morning or a Tuesday afternoon, you can’t help but notice the thirty-seven teens that are our Madrichim (teacher aides) this year. Our youth group is thriving. Children and teens are active and engaged in meaningful programming. There is something here for everyone, young and older. Visit our beautiful new website to view the calendar and see the details about programming.

It was sixty years ago that our congregation came together as a community dedicated to prayer, education and social action. It is heartening to see how far we have come in sixty years and so exciting to think where we will be in the next sixty years. I am so proud to be a part of this exciting milestone in our history, celebrating sixty wonderful years and watching our beloved Congregation thrive in the future. Look around the room; it is likely you will see some new faces. Our membership team has been working so hard to share the light of Solel with the community at large. To date, we have more than 20 new member families. People in the larger community can feel the energy, ruach and joy, and want what we have to offer here at Solel.

I’m not sure how to find the right words to tell you how incredibly blessed I feel to have Rabbi Moffic and Cantor O’Brien leading us in prayer, supporting us, teaching us, inspiring us and guiding us. Rabbi Moffic, your brilliant insight and thoughtful heartfelt words comfort us and encourage us to be better people. The dedication in your newest book, The Happiness Prayer; Ancient Jewish Wisdom for the Best Way to Live Today reads: “To Congregation Solel for trusting me to be your Rabbi, and for giving me the opportunity to lead, write, speak and grow”. Thank you for being our Rabbi and taking us along on this journey. Coincidentally, I like to call Solel my happy place, and it truly is a happy place. If you have been here in the last 6 months on a Friday night, to celebrate Shabbat, you know exactly what I’m talking about. The chapel is filled week after week to welcome Shabbat.

Cantor O’Brien, when you sing and chant the prayers, you feel, you daven, and you touch the hearts and souls of everyone in the room. It is with heartfelt gratitude that on behalf of the congregation, I simply say thank you!

Allan, we are grateful for the dedication and tireless effort it takes to be our Executive Director. Michelle, Evelyn, Jenny and Vic, thank you for all the work it takes to keep the day to day operations running smoothly, and welcome to Amy.

We are grateful for our devoted custodial staff, Alexandra, Carlos, Hugo, Juan, and Juan Junior.

Simcha, you are a gift to each and every one of us, and such an important member of our community.

We are blessed to have Ashley Plotnick as the Director of Congregational Learning, who leads Lev Solel, with love and a true understanding of how children learn best and develop a deep love for Judaism. Ashley, you are the heart of Lev Solel.

Michael Schneider has rejuvenated our Solel youth group, engaging significant numbers of our youngest generation on their journey of Jewish life. Thank you.

Thank you to so many of you who voluntarily contribute your time, energy, and expertise so that we can provide rich and meaningful programming, stay comfortable in our building, and maintain a spiritual home.

Thank you to the angels who time after time go above and beyond in contributing funds so that our dreams can become reality.

Russell, you bring so much to our community both musically and personally. We are blessed to have you with us as our music director and friend.

And of course our choir, who work so hard all year to add joy and spirit to our worship. Each and every one of you is so giving of your time and passion and I am honored to be singing with you during these High Holy days and throughout the year. A special thanks to our gifted soloists, Joelle, Margaret, Alfredo and John.

I’d like to express my deepest gratitude to the Board of Directors. As presidents, we are only able to achieve what we set out to achieve by having good, sacred partners to help us along the way.

I’d like to invite each of you to join me, along with Rabbi Moffic, Cantor O’Brien and your fellow congregants for the Rosh Hashanah Reception, sponsored by the Board of Directors, after tomorrow morning’s service and before the 2:00 pm Family Service.

To my family, thank you for always loving me and supporting me. Jeff, Ross, Carly, Sammi and I wish you a good, sweet New Year filled with health and happiness.

Shana Tova!

– Holly Krakow
President

Copyright © Congregation Solel, 2017. All rights reserved. Member of the Union for Reform Judaism

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