What Does It Mean To Be A Jew - Ken Strauss

What does it mean to be a Jew? To believe in “The One”? To do God’s will? To observe and celebrate the 10 Commandments? To pass Torah from generation to generation, preserving our ancestors’ wisdom? To set an example that others may follow? To work for Justice, Peace and Tikkun Olam (repair the world)?

At many levels, being Jewish is a privilege. Although many Jews in the past paid a steep price for that privilege, our very survival as a people, as a culture of knowledge and wisdom, proves its worth and value to humankind — especially in light of the plethora of societies and cultures that have perished in the interim. We are privileged to have been given the Torah and Commandments that direct us on the straight path, the path toward Tikkun Olam. 

Even so, the ancient writings CLEARLY show that we are, as every other people, stiff-necked and stray from that path at every juncture. God has given us commandments and prophets to remind us of our duties to ourselves, our communities, and our world. Our stories tell of our strengths and of our weaknesses, show us great role models as well as their foibles and faults. What other compilation of a people’s history airs their dirty laundry as openly and liberally as ours? Our Jewish experience, our culture and folkways emphasize education and awareness. Repeating these stories of bygone days encourages T’shuvah (returning to the right path) so that we may be less inclined to repeat the errors from our people’s past in our own lives. 

Is this a perfect, all-wise system? Not by a long shot. As Winston Churchill remarked, “[this] is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried…” Nonetheless, we have been the leaders in rule-of-law and protection of individual rights. For example, our writings emphasize that we don’t take advantage of the vulnerable; we do right by the stranger in our midst, the widow, and the orphan. We humans are all children of God, gifted with intelligence and the free will to use it. Our Jewish heritage teaches us that how we use our gifts – intellectual, emotional, physical, and spiritual – makes a difference in the lives around us, ripples through space and time, positively affecting the world tomorrow and the world to come. 

So, what does it mean to be Jewish? To learn about our past, to emulate our role models, and to avoid our ancestors’ errors; to live and work for Justice in the present, to do deeds of loving-kindness; and to have faith that setting a good example moves our future, even if only infinitesimally small steps at a time, toward a just and peaceful world, built with our own hands this time. Hallelujah! 

Past President,

Ken Strauss

Ahavas Israel Board Member

President's Letter, September 2018

As most of you already know by now, I am the current President of Ahavas Israel. My term of office will run for two years. It is an honor to serve as your president; however, along with this honor comes quite a responsibility … one that includes making sure things get done and everything runs smoothly.  One can’t do it all; I can’t do it alone.  As the saying goes, it takes a village…. Ahavas Israel’s village is composed of our staff, board of trustees, and congregation members. 

Our staff includes Rabbi Krishef; office manager, Deb Johnston; and custodian, Tin Geiger. 

Board members are  — Ann Berman, Guy DeJager, Doug de Lange, Jack Finn, Cary Fleischer, Mort Hoffman, Mark ‘Moishe’ Jesin, Judy Joseph, Ed Miller, Diane Rayor, David Reifler, Leah Sauer, Kenneth Strauss, Lanny Thodey, Robin Turetsky, and Patricia Weller, and you are our congregation members. 

The key to success is communication.  I am hoping for a two-way communication between members of the board and members of the congregation. In order to help achieve this goal, every board member has been given a list of about five congregation members that they will be calling on a regular basis. This is your chance to communicate with us while we communicate with you. 

We would like to hear any questions, thoughts, concerns, requests, suggestions, or ideas that you may have for us.  This is your shul; we want you to make use of it by communicating, contributing, volunteering, and participating with us in any way you can. Step up and work with us on any of our committees, help plan programs and activities.  We would welcome your ideas, help, and participation.

Ahavas provides a wide range of religious, educational, and social activities for you. As we move forward this year, I hope it will be a successful year with participation, communication, and involvement from all of you to make it a valuable year for all of us.

As our High Holy days start, and we welcome in the New Year, 5779, remember that the board is here for you; I hope you will be here for us.  Let’s work together for a happy, healthy, successful, sweet year. We look forward to hearing from you and seeing you at Shul.

Wishing you a very happy New Year

L’Shona Tovah Tikateyvu

Barbara Wepman, President

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