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a shana Tova indeed

09/21/2023 07:05:43 AM


Rabbi Jeffrey Myers

The sign seemed simple enough.  It was informing people that services were deferred until 5:30PM. But upon a more careful reading, it was what the sign implied that was so very powerful. It read:

Sunday, September 17
There will be no morning
services at Calvary to allow
Tree of Life to hold their
High Holiday Services.

Instead, Calvary will
celebrate the Holy Eucharist
with one service
at 5:30PM.

The second day of Rosh Hashanah fell on a Sunday this year, coinciding with the Christian Sabbath. We have been holding High Holy Day services in their main sanctuary since 2019.  On most Sundays, they will hold three morning services at different times. The Holy Eucharist, from the Greek word for gratefulness or thanksgiving, features the consecrated elements of Holy Communion, the bread and wine. Offering one service at 5:30PM as a replacement for three services was no doubt inconvenient for many worshippers, as well as possibly the choir, deacons and clergy.  But they made this change without any hesitation out of respect for their Jewish guests who benefitted from the use of their magnificent building.

Wow.  What a selfless act of love. They modeled our shared teaching of treating your neighbor as you wish to be treated. They delayed their religious needs so that we who lack a permanent home could meet our needs. There was no debate on the subject. This is how they treat guests in their home, reminding us of the hospitality that Abraham showed three travelers. But even more powerful was the reality being expressed to the world: we can coexist in peace. We can find ways to share our resources for the benefit of all, with both of us practicing our faiths side by side with mutual respect.  As much as we are regularly expected by God to “remember the stranger, for you were strangers in a strange land”, it was so uplifting to experience this mitzvah applied to us by Episcopalians. They taught us how it not only must be, but can be.

While we asked our congregants to be ushers and greeters, the first ones who arrived to the building were the church’s own parishioners to serve as greeters, to warmly welcome me, our own greeters, and all of our congregants to services. Many parishioners joined us for services, as our worship is something unfamiliar to them. There are so many people from Calvary Episcopal Church to thank, and while singling out one individual is always risky, nonetheless I must mention Rector Jonathon Jensen.  While this beautiful welcome is seen and expressed through his parishioners, it is taught and modeled from the top down. He even invited me to offer the sermon at that Sunday service, which I was honored to do as an expression of gratitude and friendship. 

We have learned much from them, and are ever grateful for their love and continued friendship, which has led to a number of shared experiences that benefit both of our congregations: the Christmas pageant (I make a guest appears Moses) followed by a Chanukah party; our Purim shpiel; annual ice skating party; weekly mah jong group; a range of services that we attend to support each other. I have regularly referred to positive experiences post-10.27 as “unanticipated positive outcomes”, and this body of shared experiences certainly is at the top of the list.

After the conclusion of their 5:30 service, I processed out of the sanctuary and joined in the receiving line. While I am so appreciative of any positive remarks about my sermon, nearly every parishioner who greeted me said to me “Shana Tova”, which is Hebrew for “Happy New Year”. What an utter surprise and delight. I could not think of a better way to begin the New Year.


Mon, July 22 2024 16 Tammuz 5784