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Celebrating 60 Years

Happy 60th Anniversary, Temple Beth Am!


by Rabbi Ruth A. Zlotnick

According to The Newlywed Game a couple no longer is considered newlywed if they are married for two years or more. The idea behind this rule, I believe, is that after two years of marriage you know one another deeply, and the first flush of love has settled into something richer and more steadfast. 
As this June/July 2016 bulletin lands in your mailbox, I will be finishing up my second year as Senior Rabbi of Temple Beth Am. I’m astonished at how quickly two years pass—surely time moves quicker now than it did when I was younger! Initially, I was drawn in by my first impression of Temple Beth Am as a joyous, singular, values-laden community. Over these last two years I’m stunned by the accuracy of this first impression: our congregants are remarkably diverse; our legacy is profoundly justice-based; our experience of Judaism is deeply soulful. It is an extraordinary experience to worship, learn and repair the world as a member of this congregation. 

What strikes me is this—60 years ago a handful of passionate and committed Jews sought to create a center for vital Jewish living in Seattle’s North End. As founder Gerry Cone has said, “We succeeded beyond our wildest dreams.” From the moment of their first gathering in January 1956, our founders firmly held the belief that the creation of an engaged, egalitarian, and pluralistic congregation was in their own hands, and thus Temple Beth Am, a House of the People, was established. 

Starting in August 2016, we will officially inaugurate our year-long 60th anniversary celebration. Under the remarkable leadership of 60th Anniversary co-Chairs Dita Appelbaum and Julia Bacharach, our year will be enhanced by events and experiences that will help us to reflect, rejoice and look ahead to the next 60 years.  In fact, our learning theme for 5777 will be Honoring Our Past, Envisioning Our Future

Honoring Our Past: Throughout this 60th year we will pay homage to the generations who built upon and expanded our founders’ vision for our House of the People. Our goal for the year is to build a legacy that is visible within the walls of the synagogue so that when someone enters our community they will learn about our history and our enduring spirit. We’ll achieve this through art installations, articles and lobby displays. We’ll have opportunities for members to share their stories and shed insight on how Temple Beth Am evolved into the dynamic organization that it is today. The commandment zakhor/to remember appears 169 times in the Hebrew Bible. To preserve memory is clearly a sacred Jewish act. In this year to come, we’ll fulfill the mitzvah of remembering by honoring TBA’s past. 

Envisioning Our Future: And also throughout this year we will look toward who we want to be 60 years from now (in 2076, our country’s Tercentennial year!) The best way we can pay homage to those who came before us is to lay the foundation for a strong community that is sustained well into the future. Over the next year, we will have conversations and learning opportunities to explore how we can ensure that our synagogue will meet the needs of the Millenial generation and beyond. We’ll pilot The Kehilla Project, our small-group initiative intended to help 21st Century Jews cultivate meaningful connections to others in our community and to our inexhaustible Jewish heritage. And, of course, we’ll be laying the groundwork as Temple Beth Am prepares to welcome the Early Child School into our organization. Nurturing the next generation is also a sacred Jewish act. In this year to come we’ll fulfill the mitzvah of transmitting values by envisioning TBA’s future. 

Whether we have been a member of Temple Beth Am for 2 years, or 12, or 52, how blessed we are to be together to celebrate Temple Beth Am’s sixtieth anniversary. The symbol of sixty years is a diamond—a precious jewel formed by unexpected circumstances to become a timeless source of light and beauty.  As we honor the past, appreciate the present and dream about what lies ahead, we know that Temple Beth Am, like a diamond, is a source of the light and beauty—the light of Torah and the beauty of living in community with one another.  May we grow from strength to strength as we embark on the next 6o years!