Dear Friends and Family,
As many of you know, I am fond of writing, and love a good thank-you letter. My grandfather, Lewis M. Greene, set the bar high for such letters, thanking my parents, his son & daughter-in-law, Barry & Betty, after most of his birthdays for the attention they gave to him and for giving him the gift of my sister Jackie and me, granddaughters who adored him well into his 102nd year.
Tonight as you honor me on 18 years of service to this sacred congregational community, I can only hope to honor Grandpa Morris’ example with a thank-you letter.
In our siddur, our prayerbook, near the end of the Amidah, we come across a prayer of gratitude that begins “Modim anachnu lach – we thank you God, for being our God & the God of our ancestors.” That prayer reminds us that our lives are in God’s hand” and expresses gratitude for the miracles that we experience every day – for God’s deeds & favors at every time of day: evening, morning and noon.
I love that the prayer acknowledges the miracles of evening, morning & noon. It reminds me that there are miracles in my life at all moments and hours of the day – and to give thanks for them. For, let’s face it, there are days my eyes are open to the miracles around me, and there are days I need reminding.
Tonight I need no reminder. Tonight I am grateful for the miracles and moments I have shared with you our community for more than 18 years – since a meeting at the Masons’ house before I even interviewed for the job. As your rabbi I am blessed to have be with you in the brightly lit times of joy that parallel morning: aside you at the ark and your children at the Torah, singing with our wee ones, creating new ritual and retreats, cooking or jumping into costume (there was that Superman costume that Patty Mason had me wear a couple of times), conversing with loving brides and grooms, choosing names with new parents babies in your arms, climbing Masada, working alongside our students who became teachers and camp counselors.
I am blessed to be with you in the dark times of tumult and grief that we might liken to evening – in the ICU, as you gain strength to find new steps or movement, sitting in the living room sharing memories, standing at a gravesite, wrestling with family dynamics, unpacking teenage tumult, considering uncertain next life journeys, wondering how to make a new start, sharing tears and prayers of memory.
And, I am blessed to be with you in the in-between or afternoon moments as it were – rich with the daily encounters of teaching, feeding the hungry, nurturing those in our own congregation, building bridges, wondering about the world, creating opportunities to grow ourselves and strengthen our community, inviting you to learn and participate, watching you accept leadership, sharing the updates on our lives, over coffee, at the oneg Shabbat, in the hall, in class or on the street, in formal or informal conversation.
Throughout it all, we have wrestled with belief and meaning, argued with ideas and tradition, and, yes, even taken on choices of words and grammar. We have brought our voices to our tradition and allowed them to be heard, equally, no matter our age, gender or background. Again and again, we have created new ritual and teaching, and brought our experiences to bear on the literature and holy words of our people. Again and again, we have created small pockets of community and connection within this large congregation – my proudest accomplishment in these 18 years. All of these times and doings are sacred. All are miracles. Thank you.
These miracles have come about with the Divine, and in partnership with you, the people, my partners on this sacred journey --
Wendi, David, Ryan, Roberta -- and let’s be clear, Steve & Patty, you may be retired, but you are in this group too -- My clergy & educational teammates who challenge and inspire me and make me laugh every day. We share irreverent honesty, a work ethic, and our own brands of creativity, and we all want to make Jewish meaning and sacred moments and make our world better, inspired by Judaism. Every morning, afternoon and evening (and yes, sometimes late into the night) it is indeed a miracle to work with you and count you as my dear friends.
Lisa Goosmann – my assistant and friend: Anything I desire to make real around here is possible when you are behind or in front of the scenes. A particular and enormous degree of gratitude to you for reading my mind, my handwriting and my dreams for this community.
Amy and the office and building staffs you lead: You are a group dedicated to this congregation and to one another, gracious and looking to say yes with a smile to make things happen in large and small ways, so often in ways that no one else sees. Together we connect folks across ages, interest and involvement.
Susan, Neil, Andrea, and our teachers: We are joined in a passion for reaching out with Judaism, joy, meaning and mitzvah to our youth from newborn through college and beyond, and their families; we share enthusiasm and determination to forge new paths teach and engage in new ways.
Our leadership who step in and step up to the task of leading this sacred congregation with vision, with purpose, with more hours than anyone can imagine for what is called “volunteer,” with seriousness and precision and with love of our people and our community. You believe in NSCI, and you have entrusted me for over 18 years to lead, teach, create and engage Jewish lives with meaning and doing. I am humbled by your trust and confidence each day. I am awed by your creativity and love – including the top-secret creation of this Shabbat celebration by an incredible team, led by Joyce Pollakoff & Peggy Rubenstein, makers of beauty and meaning in so many facets of our synagogue life.
I thank you our NSCI community all for your partnership and leadership, for the trust you place in me each day, at each time of day, to join together to make miracles happen. And I thank you for something else. Thank you for being my community, the community of our family. So many of you have stood beside me, in community with my family – as I got to know you, as I married and divorced, as I celebrated births and mourned deaths – and, most magnificently, as Noa, David and Talia grow as children of this community, finding and creating their Jewish voices and their roles to repair our world. Your presence is and has been the most sacred of gifts to us all.
My deep gratitude to family, friends, friends who have become family, family who have become friends, colleagues who are my teachers and friends, all who have come to celebrate with me, with us, this Shabbat – whether you are physical here or here via streaming, you deepen my joy beyond words.
Lastly, maybe, while we celebrate the miracles of 18 years, please allow me a personal expression of utter gratitude. So many of you have heard me speak about the powerful rabbinic and personal example of my father, Rabbi Barry H. Greene. Indeed, Dad’s presence is with us this Erev Shabbat. He is, no doubt, hearing me and telling me to speak slower and end with intention.
Fewer of you hear me speak about an equally important presence in my life, that of my mother, Betty, an unassuming person who would prefer to be in front of a group if they were Kindergarteners, her favorites. Mom, I am the teacher and mother (storyteller and baker, too) that I am today because of you. Thank you. A day does not go by without my appreciating the miracles of your life, wisdom, humor, health and presence – and yes, reminders to make sure my suits are clean and pressed before the Holy Days.
Noa, David Talia & I are thrilled that Mom is joined by my sister Jackie and nephew Jacob, here from DC. And as for you, my three precious children, Noa, David, Talia, you teach me, make me laugh and humble me every day. You are kind and compassionate, curious and creative; I am grateful. I am proud and blessed to be your mother.
And so, with an awareness that my grandfather would have already told me that I went on too long, I will conclude. Modah ani lachem – I thank you, all of you, my community, for the miracles you share with me each hour, each day, each year, and for the miracles of this magnificent Shabbat celebration.
God, I am grateful to be alive and sustained, and to reach this wonderful Shabbat of joy.
Click on the video below to watch Rabbi Greene give her remarks at the August 25th, 2017 Shabbat Service.