Last week, we at Shema Koleinu concluded our 2nd year of High Holy Day services, and well – we just couldn’t have asked for anything better!
We knew it would be a great year, but it was going to be tough to surpass our first year’s efforts. I truly had no idea how we were going to make that happen, but a lot of great opportunities came our way this year that we are so thankful for, and I’m so excited to share this with you.
Last year, we knew we were on to something great. From a feeling deep inside, I created a service that I knew would ring positively in my families’ hearts, and make them feel warm and welcome. I took a huge risk, incorporated some really original ideas that could have gone one way or another, but we were spot on. We really didn’t know how this year could get any better, but by the first night we stepped onto that stage, we knew we would hit a home run for our families who came to worship with us this year.
This year, we made 2 major additions to our worship team that I am so proud of. Rabbi Janie Grackin, a renowned Jewish educator and Storah-Teller joined my team after 2 years of begging! Janie engaged our congregation – adults AND children, by bringing the stories of our people to life. We heard comments like “time flew by so fast, and she left us wanting MORE!” Who says that at a High Holy Day service? Well – if you’re sitting in a service where Rabbi Janie is telling the stories, then YOU will be saying that for sure!
Ms. Teresa Flores – drummer extraordinare joined us this year, on the recommendation of my voice teacher, Katy. Teresa kept the rhythm and passion flowing for all of us this year. She is the most intuitive percussionist I have ever met, and is a permanent member of our team for sure.
But for Doug (my pianist), my Dad, and myself- a year of confidence and accomplishment behind us brought us to our community with full hearts, ready to lead, knowing we had a community who was eager to share the passion of Jewish prayer with us, and trusted us to help them lift their hearts in prayer together as a community. We were overcome with joy as we watched my students come eagerly to the bimah to recite prayers and be honored with an aliyah. And we were humbled by the most incredible, heartfelt expressions of gratitude from our congregants after the services.
But the greatest moment of success, for me, was our first-ever community-wide break the fast. We put it together quickly, and promised anyone who attended a warm, welcoming environment where friends and soon to be friends could come share this moment together in unity, and it was a major success. We had over 60 people, about 20+ of them who had only found out about us a few days prior, and many of them I did not know. But something inside those folks told them that this would be a great place to come break the fast, and – it was. I was so thrilled to say Hamotzi with children I had never seen before, in a warm, open, inclusive place where we could all be ourselves and celebrate a new year together.
Looking back at our services, this year, my heart is full and I am humbled by the feedback of our congregants. I met new families , touched new lives, and they touched mine. My prayer this year for all of my community was formed in my mind, by looking at my own life and knowing what I am most grateful for, and I wish this – truly – for everyone I know.
For 5773, I pray for those around me to wake up every day to a life fulfilled by the role they play in their every day lives. I pray for every person to experience satisfaction by knowing they have made a difference in the world around them. I pray that every person hears the words “thank you for being you”, because that is what G-d has made us, and happiness and holiness exist for us when we are truly being our authentic selves. I greet each day proud of who I am, and what makes me different, and I am so grateful for the love and gratitude I receive in exchange for what I do. There is no greater feeing, and I wish for every person I love to experience that for themselves. I pray for joy, peace and abundance for all of my friends, congregants, and family members, and most of all – I am so looking forward to 5774.
I thank you ALL for giving me the opportunity to lead you in prayer this year. I hope I touched your lives as deeply as you all have touched mine.