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These Relationships Nourish My Soul

09/18/2018 08:00:00 PM

Sep18

Greg Frost, President

I am a Jew by choice. I am a member of HHS by choice. I am the president of this congregation by choice. These choices are part of my Jewish journey, a journey guided and nurtured by HHS and its values. In the coming weeks, you’ll be hearing more about the vision statement adopted by HHS’s Board. Tonight I’ll tell you how my family has lived the values embodied by this vision. 

With my former wife Elaine and our two daughters Maya and Talia, I joined HHS 16 years ago for reasons that will sound familiar: to be part of a caring and welcoming community, to be inspired and find meaning, and to repair a broken world. 

Soon after joining HHS, we became members of a chavurah. Like our birth families, our chavurah family is together for the good times: monthly potlucks, holiday celebrations, our children becoming b’nai mitzvah, and even one couple’s wedding. We also lift each other up when we have fallen: crying together as our kids leave for college; providing a safe space for couples experiencing divorce; and sitting shivah with our friends who have lost a loved one. 

I have been involved in the work of the Tikkun Olam (social action) committee as long as I’ve been a member of HHS. We have served thousands of meals to the homeless, carried out volunteer projects at the synagogue and for Boulder’s nonprofits, provided a new life for young women escaping persecution in Sudan, and educated our community about pressing societal issues like health care and climate change. 

As a scientist, I constantly ask questions, and I value the growth and inspiration from that comes from learning and study. I became fascinated by how Jews are encouraged to struggle with our spirituality and with the Divine Presence, to debate ethical and moral issues, and to learn through study and discussion. So, a dozen years ago, I started conversion studies with Rabbi Deborah Bronstein. A couple of years later, at the mikvah in the presence of three of Boulder’s Rabbis, I became part of this tribe of God wrestlers. 

During my conversion process, I also joined an adult b’nai mitzvah cohort. For two wonderful years, we discussed scripture, learned to read Hebrew, and prepared to lead the prayer service. On a Friday evening a decade ago, I was transformed while chanting Torah on the bimah surrounded by my classmates and our congregation. 

I continue to be inspired at Saturday morning Torah study, in a packed room of 13- to 83-year-olds engaged in deep, humorous and emotional discussions of how Jewish wisdom applies to us.

Har HaShem has helped my daughters Maya and Talia to become Jewish adults. Like countless generations of young people before them, my girls learned to read Hebrew, studied Jewish teachings, mastered the prayer service, became beautiful Torah chanters, and dispensed wisdom through their Divrei Torah. In HHS’s youth programs, my daughters have been inspired by amazing adult role models; they have found their own personal Jew Crew of close friends; and they have helped make HHS an open tent that welcomes all of our young people. At HHS my girls learn the value of service, through leadership of synagogue and regional youth groups and on Rabbi Greene’s search committee. They are committed to repairing the world and making it more just, feeding the homeless and demanding that our nation address the scourge of gun violence. Through the Israel Study Tour, an amazing month-long journey through the Holy Land, they found connection with the Jewish people worldwide. 

Four and a half years ago, I said yes when asked to serve as a member of the HHS Board of Trustees. I take pride in the work that the Board does to ensure that HHS is a gathering place for anyone seeking a life of inspiration and meaning.  

Four years ago, I found myself in the wilderness: Elaine and I divorced, we sold the family home, and I began rethinking my life path. Throughout these difficult times, HHS has been my safe haven. The caring members of my HHS family -- my chavurah, many friends, my fellow Trustees, and the synagogue staff -- have helped me tremendously. Elaine and I are still good friends, and with our girls, we are one of the many wonderful, complicated families that make HHS so special. 

Since becoming Board President in May, my connections with congregants and staff have grown even deeper through frequent conversations and shared projects. In his seminal work I and Thou, Martin Buber puts forward a profound thesis: When we engage with another person in a way that acknowledges their fundamental humanity and dignity, we find God. I have so many I-and-Thou relationships at HHS that I’ve lost count. This is why I spend so much time with this community: these relationships nourish my soul. 

HHS is my Jewish home, my Jewish family, and an integral part of my life. I want the same to be true for all of you. I encourage you to get involved in this congregation. Our nationally-recognized staff and our dedicated lay volunteers work hard to engage our members in Jewish learning, spiritual practice, social action, service, and community building. To find meaning here at HHS, you simply need to step up, try something new, and say yes when asked. 

Over 50 years ago, HHS’s founders so strongly felt this need for fellowship that they worked tirelessly and mortgaged their own homes to create a Jewish community in Boulder. Their visionary thinking was a fundamentally Jewish act: they sowed the seeds that produced a bounty that now nourishes the lives of generations that extend well beyond theirs.  

We continue to build and invest in the Jewish home and family that the founders bequeathed to us. Congregants provide nearly all the financial support on which the synagogue relies. Your membership commitment and religious school tuition are two of HHS’s financial pillars. However, even with this generous giving, the synagogue’s budget requires direct fundraising from our members. 

HHS has been blessed by two major gifts in the past few years. The HHS-founding Margolis Family made a $1M gift to honor Barbara’s blessed memory and to acknowledge their family’s deep commitment to this congregation. A second anonymous family, in tribute to the inspiration HHS brings to their lives, recently made another million-dollar gift to pay down the congregation’s mortgage and to strengthen the synagogue’s financial position. The building blocks laid by these two families help create a stable foundation for our congregation, but they are just the beginning. Now we need your help to build HHS’s future.

There are many ways that you can support HHS in creating an inspiring Jewish community:

  • HHS’s 2nd Annual Campaign will involve every congregant to reach its goal of $140K. When you receive a request from a Campaign volunteer soon, please give as generously as you can. 
  • Later this fall, you’ll hear about our Chanukah Silent Auction. Please consider bidding on some great gifts for the people you love and get your holiday shopping done early. 
  • Throughout the year, HHS members will host Great Gatherings -- lovely events where the price of your ticket is a donation to the synagogue, and your host provides the fun for you and a group of your friends. 
  • Join us in May when HHS hold its 2nd annual Harmony and Hops music and brew festival. 
  • Through a simple commitment process, HHS’s legacy giving program allows you to designate a portion of your estate to the congregation through your will or life insurance. 

If you have questions about how to support the community we love, please talk to me, any Board member, or our staff. Thank you all for your ongoing generosity to HHS. 

At Har HaShem, we enable and support our members to discover meaning in their lives through Jewish practice. I hope you’ll join me in investing your energy and resources to bring meaning to your life and to the life of our congregation. 

May your New Year be sweet and full of blessings. 

Fri, December 13 2019 15 Kislev 5780