Healing and Strengthened with Friends

 

I come to the CCAR Convention every year for many reasons. I want to learn, refine, rediscover and build rabbinic skills, and I want to spend time with my colleagues and friends. And this year especially, I not only wanted to but truly NEEDED to be with my colleagues and friends.

It’s been a long six weeks since the fire at TBS that not only destroyed our kitchen, but also brought our building to its skeleton because of the smoke and soot damage.  For me, my entire staff and amazing lay leadership, days have been long and involved, and to be honest, we are all exhausted. Coming to CCAR was a welcome moment to step away and hope to fulfill the goals I set out with every year. But this conference would become something more.

As in this week’s Torah portion during which the priest is called to the house or bedside of someone with tza’ara (a visible growth or skin disease) he was expected to investigate if the person was in fact clean once again, in other words cured. This portion is one of two that is challenging because we automatically fall into the “gross factor” and challenge the portions relevance. However, there are positive blessings as the priest was not only the spiritual practitioner for the people, he was also the physician, seeking healing for anyone in his community. He brought support and strength.

This year’s CCAR is filled with many “priests” (aka, colleagues and friends) who seek to bring healing and invite me, and actually all of us to recognize that the tza’arot that plague our lives are not insurmountable. That they can be cleaned and we can be made whole and able to embrace a new normal.

I have been overwhelmed by the love and support of every CCAR colleague and friend who read my post about our TBS fire and have offered support on all levels. Many of you I know and some are new to me. Each of you are a part of my rabbinic family and your compassion is felt deeply. Everyone of you have overwhelmed me in the most amazing way and I am feeling inspired, healed, whole and ready for the next chapter of our congregations journey toward recovery.

And the support knows no boundaries. Last night, 54 rabbis shaved their heads, participating in St. Baldrick’s 36 Shave for the Brave in loving support of our colleagues and friends Rabbis Michael and Phyllis Sommer and in memory of their son, Sammy, z’l, who lost his battle to leukemia in December. Last night we gathered to support those who shaved (and I even wielded the shears for one shavee) as we celebrated raising over $575,000 (and that number continues to grow) toward childhood cancer research. We also mourned because  this event reminds us that too many children are dying. While some may say this is only a drop in the bucket, we know that every drop counts and eventually the bucket will be filled and we pray no family will ever have to lose another child to cancer.

We come to the CCAR convention to learn, grow and yes, to heal. And together, we find it and create the moments. And tomorrow, we will leave stronger, more whole, and blessed. I know I am.

What I Shared with My CCAR Colleagues

I shared this posting with my CCAR Colleagues and am so grateful for their love and support!

Dear Colleagues and Friends,
Six weeks ago our congregation, Temple Beth Sholom, suffered a fire in our building. What started as a kitchen fire has completely destroyed our Sanctuary, Social Hall and Administrative Office building. For those of you who have experienced a fire, you know that the smoke and soot can wreck even more havoc than the flames. Our building is down to the studs. My office has been packed out and I am waiting to hear the fate of my library. All of our Torah scrolls were removed shortly after the fire was extinguished, but they have sustained damage and we are looking at possibly having to replace between 2-4 of our scrolls. All of our prayer books were destroyed and we have since ordered new Mishkan T’filah from CCAR Press. We have also placed an order for Mishkan HaNefesh, but realize that we are going to have a shortage of machzorim this High Holy Days.

Fortunately, our school building is fine and we, the staff, have been sharing space with one another. (Let’s just say, I’ve had a lot of coffee meetings at Starbucks and I should consider switching to decaf!) We are hoping to move into our temporary office trailer next week. For the first few weeks, we were the wandering Jews of Orange County and grateful for the congregations who opened their doors to us to share Shabbat. We have now taken up a more permanent residence with the LDS Stake Center very close to TBS.

I am turning to you, my colleagues asking that if you are able to support our rebuilding efforts in any way, it will be greatly appreciated. We are looking for financial assistance as well as suggestions for grants we should apply for or people we should approach. I am also looking for any congregations who might have any extra Gates of Repentance that we can use for these upcoming High Holy Days to please let me know.

Yes, we were in the middle of a capital campaign when the fire took place. Now we have a large gap we are looking to fill. We are very fortunate that we have a very good insurance policy, but as you might know, that will not fill the full financial void. Not only are we trying to fulfill the original vision that was going to revitalize our education building and administrative offices, but now we have a great amount of work to do to bring our congregation back into the sanctuary. I appreciate we support one another and I am grateful for all the love and concern I’ve already received from so many colleagues in our region.

Thank you all so much!
L’Shalom,
Heidi Cohen
Rabbi of Temple Beth Sholom, Santa Ana, California
www.tbsoc.com if you would like to see more about the fire as well as photos where we been used sleeklens templates for grad students.

A Jewish Center of Life, Learning and Connections in Orange County, CA
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