For a thousand years in Thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night. –Psalms: 90:4
Where has the time gone? It was but yesterday when we were a wandering congregation, meeting in rented spaces and congregant homes. Those early years required so much energy, so much passion. When I came in 1981, Temple Sinai had already been meeting in Faith Methodist Church for eleven years. Beyond the conducting of worship, there was the weekly set up and break down. The church’s sanctuary needed to be made ready for Jewish worship. The cross required covering. The prayer books had to be rolled into the front foyer from a storeroom. From that same storeroom, the Torah was removed from a moveable ark. The ark and its base had to be carried into the sanctuary followed by the Torah. And when the service was concluded the process was then reversed. We were small in number then, but certainly not in energy or enthusiasm. In the summer months, worship was held in congregant homes from Enosburg Falls to Shelburne Vermont.
We had our fears. Would we grow? Would we be able to find a permanent home? Would we run out of money? Yet our fears never kept us from pursuing the next dream. Little by little people who wished to have a more progressive expression of Jewish belief and practice joined us. Most who joined came from other places, Chicago, Los Angeles, Montreal, New York, Boston, Toledo, Philadelphia, Birmingham and the list goes on and on. For many, Temple became a second home. It was here that life-cycle events took place. At times we celebrated and at times we consoled. It was here we observed holidays; praying together and more often than not eating together. Older members became surrogate grandparents. And strangers eventually became friends.
As time passed and our foothold was more established we ventured out beyond the walls of the synagogue. Russian Jews were resettled, the women of Lund Home received quilts, Christmas Day became a time to deliver meals, we became a charter member of Mazon: a Jewish Response to Hunger, we hiked to alleviate hunger, we made room for a Christian community that lost its church in a fire, we now host AA, Alanon, Overeaters Anonymous and activities for challenged children.
If you were to ask me what has kept us going for these fifty years, I would answer: faith in God and a love of all humankind. It is God that beckons us to make for ourselves a life of meaning. We were placed on this earth to make something of ourselves, yet not for ourselves exclusively. Our talents and our gifts are to improve the world in which we live: to raise people out of poverty, to feed the hungry, to house the homeless, to educate, to give spiritual direction to those lost in the night. As long as we remember these two important lessons—that God beckons us to live a life of meaning and to love all humankind—there will always be a place for Temple Sinai.