A Sukkah of Peace, Hope and New Beginnings

September 2018 Newsletter Article

As the Congregation Shalom Hebrew School readies itself for the upcoming academic year, 5779, I am struck by the concepts of permanence and impermanence in Jewish religious, spiritual, and ritual life.

The first day of Religious School is Sunday, September 23rd, which coincides with the beginning of the Holiday of Sukkot. Sukkot is one of our three pilgrimage festivals and is associated with impermanent dwellings termed “sukkot” in Hebrew and “tabernacles” in English. This is a time to celebrate nature, welcome the stranger, and shake the Lulav and Etrog, which we will examine in our teachings. Sukkot is a time for families and Jewish congregations to gather and celebrate in structures which will stand for only a week. It is a time of wonder and a salutation to nature, it is a time to look up into the night sky and watch the stars. Sukkot is indeed a magical holiday.Here in Chelmsford, Congregation Shalom has been the gathering place for Jewish families since 1967. We offer our members of all ages a spiritual home beyond the walls of their own homes. Standing even beyond our temple, is the structure of our Sukkah, which will rise again, as it has in years past.

Congregation Shalom became a community with a physical structure in 1973, finally settling into its present building in 1995. Synagogues can be edifices that are built and then repurposed as Jewish communities shift. What is enduring, however, is the culture and education passed on within sanctuaries and Hebrew school classrooms. As a people we have learned that scholarship can never be taken from us. As I look around the beautiful building that is Congregation Shalom and contemplate the coming year for our students, I am struck by the weight of responsibility that passes through generations of educators as once again our staff prepares to teach their students about what it is to welcome Ushpizin /strangers/guests,  study the Torah, Repair the World, never be bystanders, and celebrate all that a New Year Cycle has to offer.

For me personally, it is appropriate that Sukkot is the holiday that officially begins my school year at Congregation Shalom, which dovetails with a new expanded educational community outreach.As an outsider coming in, I have been welcomed. As an outsider going forward I will be welcoming. I look forward to getting to know each family and child in our community and know that our excellent teachers will continue to bring forth a high level of educational expertise to our students. I look forward to learning with the CS community in ways which are permanent and fluid, as is the Jewish way. We will build structures and take them down together. It is my hope that this holiday is indeed a Sukkat Shalom. A Sukkah of Peace, of Hope and New Beginnings for us all.

Stay Tuned for More Adventures
In Jewish Learning and Engagement…

Dale Norman