Year in Life of BAI
There is something magical about Beth Am Israel.
We come home to Beth Am Israel in the fall.
Fall is a time of renewal for the Jewish people. During Rosh Hashanah, we take time to recognize the new. We welcome our new members with Aliyot (honors). WE BLESS THE NEW BABIES THAT HAVE COME INTO OUR COMMUNITY OVER THE PAST YEAR. Of course, during Yom Kippur we remember those no longer with us — both within our community and those close to our members.
Reserved seats? We don’t have them. SIT WHERE YOU WANT. Some opt to sit in front and be in the middle of everything. Others choose our balcony and enjoy beautiful views, both of our sanctuary and of the fall foliage. We sit with our families. We sit with our friends. We sit with each other.
Many of our members with young children attend our family service. With MUSIC AND PUPPETS, Hazzan Harold relates the stories of Abraham in a way that young children understand and enjoy, and their parents appreciate. At the end of the family service, we all come together in the sanctuary, where the kids gather on the Bimah (pulpit) as we welcome the New Year with the blast of the Shofar!
We kick off our Hebrew School with the smell of barbeque wafting through the air at our welcome back cookout. OUR HEBREW SCHOOL IS A SHABBAT-CENTERED PROGRAM. Students join their parents for the early part of ourservice. When there is no Bar or Bat Mitzvah, students lead our congregation in some of the prayers.
Following the High Holidays, we celebrate Sukkot. Many members gather to schlep lumber, cut bamboo, drive screws, eat bagels, and kibbitz as we build our Sukkah. At Simchat Torah, we dance with the Torah. All of us. WE UNROLL THE SCROLL WRAPPING ALL THE WAY AROUND THE SANCTUARY; the Torah held up by generations of members. We celebrate.
Shortly following this on the calendar is the Kabbalat Siddur ceremony, at which our third grade students each receive their own personally-inscribed Siddur. This prayer book becomes a part of their studies going forward, with most using their siddur for their BAT OR BAR MITZVAH, WHEN EACH CHILD AT BETH AM HAS THE OPPORTUNITY TO SHINE ON HIS/HER OWN SHABBAT.
About Shabbat — on Friday evenings, we enjoy a music-filled Kabbalat Shabbat service. Led by Hazzan Harold and Rabbi David on guitar, MEMBERS OF ALL AGES CONTRIBUTE THEIR STRINGS, HORNS, DRUMS, AND VOICES. Such a great way to exhale at the end of the week!
On Saturdays, activities get started at 9AM. Prior to the Torah service we offer a few OPTIONS TO HELP BRING US EACH TO OUR OWN MEANINGFUL PLACE. These include Torah study with Rabbi David, where the week’s Parshah (Torah portion)is dissected, trisected and filleted, and a more meditative offering called Tefilah B’Kavanah (mindful prayer) led by Hazzan Harold and his spiritual guitar playing. Once a month we also offer Torah Yoga for those seeking more Ommmm.
TORAH SERVICES ARE BOTH CLERGY-LED AND LAY-LED by congregants wishing a role. Hazzan Harold and congregants run classes for those wishing to learn to read Hebrew and Torah.
Later in the morning, we offer TOT SHABBAT TO GET OUR YOUNGEST CONGREGANTS INTO THE SHABBAT SPIRIT!
We gather after services for a Kiddush where our community builds our social connections over good Jewish food, often cooked by our own members in our synagogue kitchen.
At Beth Am, we light up the darkness of the winter months with our Hanukah party. Candles are lit. Dreidels are spun. Sufganiyot (donuts) and gelt (chocolate money) are eaten! Corny songs are sung!
In January, we celebrate MLK weekend, another highlight. We hold INSPIRING SERVICES WITH ZION BAPTIST CHURCH, SINGING IN THE INTERFAITH UNITY CHOIR AND GROOVING ON ITS GOSPEL AND JEWISH MUSIC. ON MONDAY, WE HOST A MEMBER-RUN INTERFAITH COMMUNITY SERVICE EVENT THAT’S ONE OF THE LARGEST IN THE AREA. This is one of our year-round “Love Your Neighbor” committee efforts working on social justice and tikkun olam (repairing the world).
This month also brings one of our most popular events: LE BEC AM. MEMBERS OPEN THEIR HOMES TO OTHER MEMBERS FOR A SPECIAL MEAL,either Saturday dinner or Sunday brunch. A great way we meet others in our community.
ALL YEAR LONG, WE CARE FOR ONE ANOTHER. We are citizen members. We provide meals to members when a baby is born or an illness is slowing a member down. We gather in our kitchens. We attend shivas for other members we may or may not know. We are here for each other. As in any family, we laugh together and we cry together.
AND ALL YEAR LONG WE LEARN FROM ONE ANOTHER. Our lifelong learning committee draws heavily on the knowledge of our members, who willingly share their insights with us all.
The spring brings Purim, and can we put on a spiel! The celebration includes our synagogue-wide Mishloah Manot distribution. We send goodies to each other — all members get a bag. The bags include Hamantaschen (gluten or gluten-free!) baked in our kitchen. Each bag is lovingly packed and delivered by members, young and old, with good cheer.
With spring also arrives Pesach. Don’t have a place to attend a Seder? Our synagogue’s listserv is the place to look for invites to fill extra seats around a member’s table. We answer the four questions together.
School ends and summer begins. Shabbat services sometimes move outside to our backyard. Many of us head away for leisure, but our hearts stay with Beth Am year round. Rabbi David and Hazzan Harold make the rounds visiting our kids at their camps. Beth Am also offers community-based summer programming geared toward our youngest members. This includes programs at the JCC pool, story times at local frozen yogurt and coffee shops — coffee for the parents, songs for the kids.
The summer ends and the fall arrives. We return home. We come home to Beth Am Israel. And the magic starts all over again…
We can’t wait to have you add your spark in our communal home! Visit us, anytime. To join as a member, simply complete the membership application.