Editor's Note: This blog originally appeared on www.jkidphilly.org
Most stories about inclusion in the Jewish community don’t involve singing in a Baptist church, but this one does.
For the last 25 years, members from my Conservative shul Beth Am Israel have come together annually with our local counterparts from a Reform temple and a predominantly African American Baptist church to sing in fellowship as the Unity Choir. We honor the memory of Martin Luther King Jr. and his legacy together for the holiday weekend, but our collaborative partnership endures throughout the year.
Ever gone on a long car trip with your children when one of them breaks the tedium of the road by piping up, “Are we there yet?”
The adorableness of this tyke wears off after they have asked the question three or four times. Your first response, “No honey bug, we’re not,” quickly morphs to a teeth clenching “No!” before you realize that little ones can’t read road maps or the GPS, and really, they are bored, tired of being in the car and maybe a little excited about getting to the destination.
The events of my son’s Bar Mitzvah day don't begin to tell the story of how Max arrived at this moment. Nor do they tell the story of the special connection that he, and we, have developed with the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue congregation, and the gratitude we feel toward this place.
Same as many young adult Jews, I hadn't felt the urgency to choose a synagogue until we knew that we were going to be parents. But once we did know, I diligently did the full tour of upper Manhattan's Reform synagogues and settled on Stephen Wise.
Max was born on Erev Rosh Hashanah. Having arrived over five weeks premature, Max spent the first nine days of his life down at Roosevelt Hospital before we could bring him home.
Each Shabbat from January 10 through January 31, 2015, the Torah portions recited in synagogues recount how God liberated the Israelites from Egyptian slavery. For those who are oppressed, Jews and non-Jews alike, the Exodus recalls the determination of slaves to be free and the compassion of God, the Liberator.
Belief-The First Step Towards Liberation
Before the Exodus, no slave had ever escaped from Egypt. Many Israelite slaves, even as redemption neared, succumbed to despair. An important first step towards liberation is realizing that God is not limited by what we humans may consider "the impossible."