The first time I ever heard of Bet Shira Congregation was in October 2018 when I asked one of my colleagues about it and he replied, “I hear it’s a wasp’s nest.” Upon applying to Bet Shira, I learned that nothing was further from the truth. I was interviewed by an impressive Search Committee led by current President Steve Goldstein and Past President Linda Truppman. At my in person visit one member of the committee spent an hour and a half with Ariela while Karina, Leora and I toured the Early Childhood Center. We were impressed not only with the Shabbat program but with the myriad offerings of the Early Childhood Center, including Generations Day, the Shalom Sefer Book Fair and Family Holiday Bridges. We were also impressed by Shabbat morning, when Mitchell Horwich welcomed Karina, Ariela and Leora to the Family Corner and by the Kiddush Lunch prepared by Tobe Marmorstein and the Sisterhood Women-with one of the most impressive displays of Kiddush, a washing station and motzi with an Emanuel Challah Cover that I have ever seen. We spent Sunday morning at the Purim Carnival, the best synagogue carnival I have ever been part of, with a panoply of outdoor games, pizza and Sno Cone trucks and a dunk hat.
Bet Shira has always brought its best foot forward. Attending Camp Gilah was one of the best summer experiences my children have ever had, each week with an attraction such as a magician, a petting zoo and Disney characters. Four congregants opened their homes to me, including President Elect Stuart Koenigsberg and Sisterhood President Debby Koenigsberg. Reinstating the Drive Through Sukkah and creating the Drive In Shabbat are programs I will never forget, not to mention Havana Nights and our 36th Anniversary Bash. I learned how to play darts and relearned dominos, while enjoying axe throwing along the way. I met some incredible people who became among Bet Shira’s most active new members and are still going strong. The Judaica that people bought for my kids, from an Aleph Bet Tape Measure, to Leora’s First Siddur, are also things I will not forget. In addition, partnering with two incredible Executive Directors, the best Office Staff I’ve ever worked with, Torah reader extraordinaire and musician Avron Smolensky, Paul Hoyle who performed at my Installation, Cantor Andres Levy and Cantorial Soloist Sharon Alcalay-Leibovici and last but not least our amazing Musical Director Dr. Alan Mason have been fun, enriching, spiritually rewarding and unforgettable.
People often think that a rabbi’s final months at a congregation are a lame duck period. Not so according to Rabbi Bill Lebeau, who said there is never such a thing as a lame duck rabbi. I still am as devoted to Bet Shira Congregation as I was when I was warmly welcomed in, and I will be through my departure in mid-June. The wasp’s nest that was talked about by my colleague couldn’t be further from the truth-this is an incredible community, and I am honored to be part of it.