Thank you Sandi for your beautiful words. I have more to say to you this evening but that will be forthcoming. I am humbled and blown away by all of your presence here tonight. I love my job. I love being a pulpit rabbi, and most importantly I love being your rabbi. It’s for that reason that I must begin with Hakarat Hatov, recognition of the good with some important if not Bar Mitzvah like thank yous. I want to start by thanking Ronnie and Stephanie Attman, Nancy and Rick Hudes and Sarah and Ricky Gratz for chairing and planning this event, ensuring that everything tonight would be perfect. I think we can all agree that it is in fact perfect. Ricky it is hard to believe that we first talked about this possibility some 18 months ago and here we are. I also want to thank Melissa, Jenny and Cheryl not only for everything that they did for tonight, but everything they do on a daily basis to enhance our community.
I am blessed every day to come into work and partner with a senior leadership team that complements and supports one another. Thank you to Glenn Easton, Rabbis Wechsler, Seltzer and Schwartz and Michelle Gold for running our institution. Thank you for all that you to Joel, Manny and Moshe for all you do to lead our Tefillah community and move us forward. I also want to specifically mention our rabbi emeritus Joel Zaiman, who continues to be a source of great wisdom and advice for me. I would love to mention everyone by name who works in this building, but I also want to get you all in to the dessert reception, so please forgive me, but know that I appreciate all of you and love the feel of family that I walk into day after day.
Chizuk Amuno was led through a search process by an incredible group of communal leaders, who I was lucky enough to create relationships with before I became the senior rabbi. Thank you to our board of directors for all of the volunteer work you do on behalf of this sacred community, and thank you for investing in this search committee. Thank you Ronald Attman, Allison Baumwald, Jason A. Blavatt, Jenny Gamliel, Ricky Gratz, Bob Hallock, Nancy Hudes, Ruthanne Kaufman, Jonny Lewis, Sarah Manekin, Jordon Max, Sandi Moffett (Co-Chair), Samuel Moskowitz, Jeffrey Platt, Stephen Pomerantz (Co-Chair), David Roffman, Michelle Rosenbloom, Mindy Rosen, Abigail Malischostak, Lee Sherman, Lynn Tucker and Glenn Easton (Staff)
And thank you to your spouse’s, partners and families for giving you up for so much time.
Sandi and Steve. I remember my first conversation on the phone with each of you. I remember our first in person introduction, but most of all I remember the great care and love that you brought to this process, and that you bring to our synagogue on a renewed basis. It may surprise people to know that each of you holds down a full-time professional position of great importance and skill, because to us it seems like we are your full time jobs. I can’t thank you enough for bringing me here and for all that you do for me on a daily basis. You are not only dedicated to the health, vibrancy and well-being of our sacred community, but are also invaluable partners with me as we position CAC & Schools to continue our growth and dynamism in to the future. I look forward to working together as we build this great and sacred community going forward.
I am blessed to be a part of the most incredible family in the world. The Gruenberg clan is a loud sort, and we like to say that we put the fun in dysfunctional, but I cannot imagine being part of a better family. My aunt and uncles have always been some of my greatest cheerleaders and have always loved me like I was their own. They are represented here tonight by my Dodah Lynne, Uncle Scott and Aunt Bev. I want to recognize my sister and brother in-law Sandy and Joe Grabicki who are with us in spirit this evening. My best friends in the world are my siblings, Hana, Yehuda, and Hillel, and their spouses Aaron, Orlee and Yael who might as well be blood at this point. Thank you for keeping me humble and grounded, for being there for me at my best and worst moments, and for making sure that I never HOG the limelight. Your friendship is one of the greatest gifts of my life.
My father in law Dr. James Rosen is here with Debbie Macht. Thank you both for being the best grandparents my children could ask for, and thank you for the great love and care you bring to our lives. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my mother in-law of blessed memory Edie Rosen. It is hard to believe that it has been nine years, but I know in my heart that you look down on us every day filled with joy and pride, and our lives continue to be enriched by your presence in them. Even in just a few short months, you have undoubtedly heard me talk about my parents Sandy and Jack Gruenberg. Their influence on my rabbinate and life is inescapable and readily visible to anyone who knows. It’s you Ima and Aba, that instilled in us a love of Conservative Judaism, Jewish living and most importantly how to be a mensch. I would not be half the rabbi, father and man that I am today, were it not for you.
My greatest job in life is being a parent to Sam and Kayla. Guys, I want to apologize that I am not always there for every moment, and that sometimes I am here even though I should be with you. I love you both more than you could ever know, and the days that you each made me a father are two of the four greatest days of my life. I am so proud of the young adults that you have become and especially how each of you has navigated this transition, only to emerge stronger and better on the other side.
Just a few short weeks ago there was a powerball jackpot in excess of one billion dollars. I did not play. My reasoning being that it would be impossible to win the lottery twice and at the risk of being overly cheesy, I won the lottery on November 9, 2003 when I married Elissa. This Friday will be 15 years. My love it has been an epic journey from the start, and through it all I am most blessed and thankful to have you together with me navigating life. You have been our rock throughout this enormous life change, and I cannot thank you enough for being the constant epicenter of our family. I love you!!
My last thank you is for you the members of this beloved and sacred community. I am humbled and lucky to be installed this evening as the 8th senior rabbi of this synagogue. Every day there are amazing things that take place within the walls of this institution. For example, each week over 1,000 students learn in our building in our schools, Krieger Schechter Day School, Rosenbloom Religious School, Stulman Center for adult learning, and our recently awarded best preschool in Baltimore Goldsmith Early Childhood Center. We have such a robust program here of learning, praying and socializing that part of my morning is ritual is to look at our computer monitor just to see what we have happening each day. You create this by your presence and commitment to CAC & schools. I also must thank you for the manner in which you have welcomed the Gruenberg family. Throughout the last four and a half months we have felt overjoyed at the welcome we have received, and it has made our transition easier than we could have ever imagined.
While tonight marks my official installation as the senior rabbi of this Kehillah Kedosha, in reality tonight is about much more than one rabbi. Tonight is a celebration of our community as we embark on our 147th year. There is a Hebrew phrase Ad Meah V’esreem or until 120. It is a statement of hope on someone’s birthday or important milestone that we want them to live a long and healthy life until the age of 120. For our community, a flagship synagogue of the Conservative movement, we will have to find a new way to articulate this sentiment. Perhaps to 150 (ad meah v’chamishim) If the first 147 years are any indication or foreshadowing of our future, then the future looks bright. But we know that our future like that of any Jewish organization in America is not guaranteed. In order for us to continue our work and ensure a bright, vibrant, dynamic, and meaningful future we need to have a shared vision of who we have been, who we are, and who we want to be.
It begins with our hopes and dreams to make this community a shining example for all faith based communities, built on the Jewish principles of our mission statement as a sacred congregation, so beautifully articulated by Shimon Hatzadik in Pirkei Avot: The world rests on three principles Torah- the study of our holy books, Avodah service to God and community through prayer and meaningful service, and Gemilut Hasadim acts of loving-kindness and goodness that help repair a sometimes broken world. There is a mountain of negativity that we see about the future of Conservative Judaism in America, and for leading a life imbued with Judaism in general. Engaging in meaningful and organic Jewish living has become the counter culture choice, but I have great confidence that if we as a community can continue to grow and build with an eye towards the future, that we can be here until 150 and beyond.
We read in the Psalms, Mah Rabu Maasecha Adonai, Kulam B’chochma Asita, How great are your creations God, they were all fashioned with wisdom. I have been reminded of this verse this past week, as we have gathered together here in the sanctuary together in massive numbers three times. The first time was on Monday, as we gathered to grieve and hold one another close, and this verse and its meaning seemed unattainable to me. Yesterday we gathered, over 1,000 of us in the building to show up in defiance and reclaim our sacred day, and the verse started to make sense once again. Tonight we gather to celebrate our community, our past, our present and our future. Tonight I can say with great pride and certainty once again, Mah Rabu Maasecha Adonai, Kulam B’chochma Asita, How great are your creations God, they were all fashioned with wisdom.
Lewis Carroll the author of Alice in Wonderland once wrote, “Now here you see it takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that.” It is far easier to remain in the same place than to seek out new places. You will never find the place you are truly meant to be if you remain stagnant. I am here today because we as a family believe that this is the place we are meant to be. This is the community where we want to build our lives. This is the community where together I think we can take Conservative Judaism to new heights, and where we can be a model for all communities everywhere.
I want to conclude this evening by sharing with you a poem by the modern Israeli poet David Rokeach, that a colleague shared with me,
Glory to those who hope!
For the future is theirs;
Those who stand unflinching against the mountain
Shall gain its summit….
My friends we need to be the ones with great hope, we need to be a community who will stand unflinching against the mountain. And together, in the coming years, I have no doubt that we will gain the summit!