New Minyan Council Takes Office
From the Rebbe May 14
35th day of the omer
manifestion/sovereignty within humility/splendor
im eyn ani li, mi li?
ukh’she’ani l’atzmi, ma ani?
v’im lo akhshav, eymatai?
If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
And if I am (only) for myself, what am I?
And if not now, when?
—Pirke Avot 1:14
This famous saying of Rabbi Hillel, quoted in the Mishnah, crystallizes in a few words one of the great paradoxes of being human. On the one hand, we are separate beings, each contained in our own skins, each unfolding our own story. We grow up, necessarily learning to hold our boundaries, to care for our bodies and souls, to maintain our integrity in the midst of many pulls.
At the same time, human growth and development can happen optimally only through relationship--in the midst of families, villages, tribes. We need one another’s skills, talents, imaginations, love. We need one another’s stories, because we are links in an unbroken chain of being; ultimately, all stories are one and dissolve into Oneness. When we can see this, we are fully present, now. And…if not now, when?
My friends, these are challenging times. We are being asked more than ever to stand, each in integrity, polishing and offering up the jewel of our individual truth. And at the same time, we need to be for and with one another more than ever, contributing our jewels to build the communal mishkan (dwelling, shelter)—sensitive to the other’s suffering, amplifying the other’s joy, attending to the needs of our collective lives as a circle of community among many overlapping communities.
If not now when?
I want to deeply thank those rotating off of the Minyan Council who have served so lovingly and faithfully these past two years. Frank Born’s presence brought vital clarity to the transitional process that resulted in my hiring, and has been a friend and advisor to me. Dan Mandel, ever present to help out in situations of crisis, has modeled a selfless service as head of bikkur kholim (visiting the sick). His exemplary actions continue to teach us how to be the caring community we are ever striving to become.
What can one say about the presence and work of Abigail Grafton and Barry Barkan on behalf of the whole? As each steps back for a much-deserved respite from their term as co-Shomer/et, we bless and thank them for all their work on so many levels. Barry came onto the Council, if I remember correctly, around the time of my coming to the Minyan, a staunch supporter of my coming on board, and a great friend and spiritual teacher for me as I dipped my toes in the Minyan’s waters, as well as into the larger stream of the East Bay Jewish community. Barry, brother, teacher, channeler of blessings, we love you and hope you will both continue to teach us and will lean on us for assistance in any way the community can offer it, returning to you and Debby manifold the blessings of wisdom, strength, and faith you have so freely and generously conferred upon us for so many years.
Abigail, you have held the container of this community for some six years. You of course have received mentoring and assistance from many others, chief among them our beloved Reuven and Yehudit Goldfarb, Miriam Stampfer, and of course Shoshana. But I do believe it fair to say that it’s largely because of your efforts in recent years and your fierce devotion, spearheading the fundraising and supervising day-to-day operations, that the Minyan continues to flourish and offer its gifts. May you be blessed now to rest, to receive love and support in your continuing recuperation from two winters of illness, and to savor the spiritual atmosphere that your great heart has helped to sustain.
I’m thankful that both Abigail and Barry will continue to serve on the Council, advising and mentoring our newly elected Shomrim, Neal Cronin and Miriam Chaya. I offer a big mazal tov and yishar khokhakhem to these courageous folks for stepping forward! Neal has, for the past months, been editing our Update and working on streamlining the procedures by which information is disseminated to our members, while Miriam Chaya has stepped into Abigail’s formidable fundraising shoes, and will be spearheading the work to maintain the flow of material resources which, along with Divine sheaf (flow of beneficence), keeps up going. Thank you both for your willingness to serve!
A great flood of gratitude to other continuing Council members! Shoshana Dembitz, who has worked diligently in many behind-the-scenes ways to create and support programs, is now a Vice President of the Council, as well as being one of our senior spiritual leaders. In ways both small and large, she has given freely of her personal resources and her love, and the community owes her a great debt of gratitude and praise. Fran Avni, organizer of home erev Shabbats and musician/composer/singer extraordinaire, graces so many of our services with her uplifting music and presence. And Sophie Miron, the “kid” on the block (although not a “new” one!), brings us her mathematical and technical expertise as treasurer and website worker, along with her soaring voice, her superlative Torah chanting, and her beautiful children—among the only ones seen at Minyan events these days!
I also want to congratulate and welcome our other new Council members: Gayle Jacobson will serve as Council Secretary and, coming from a background in home nursing, will be organizing our very important bikkur kholim (visiting the sick) efforts. Debbie Sarnoff, whose many years of work as a music teacher in the public schools will stand her in good stead as she steps into Shoshana’s shoes as program coordinator, will also serve as a Council Vice President. And Yakov Bob Jaffe, lover of Torah and experienced service organizer, will be coordinating our monthly Shabbat services.
Great thanks also to Lea Delson, who has beautifully produced the Author Night series this past year, and who gives valuable ongoing input to the Council on matters of communication and publicity; and Shauna Rabinowitz who so gracefully manages the technical aspects of the Update and keeps the website current. And there are so many others of you, working both at front tables and behind the scenes, offering the financial and the spiritual support that keeps things going.
Finally, a big welcome and thanks to Marcia Brooks, woman of wisdom, efficient organizer, wonderful cook, and Jewish community maven beyond compare. “A woman of valor, who can find…may she rejoice always in the work of her hands!” Since March, Marcia has been serving as our part-time administrative coordinator, helping to produce events, to reorganize our database and communications procedures, and to assist me in prioritizing and streamlining my workload. Marcia, you are what we call a macher; you make things happen! We are so lucky to have you on our team during this crucial time of ongoing transition.
I urge all of us, if you don’t already, to get to know all these folks! Offer them your support, your praise when an event or a service moves you, your input, and your appreciation, whenever you see them! Give them a little shoulder rub (with permission, of course!). Offer them a blessing, a hug, a handshake, a mazal tov, a thank-you. They have generously and courageously stepped forward, out of their love for a renewed Jewish communal life and their faith in what the Aquarian Minyan has been, is, and is becoming, to donate their talents and their time to all of us—the kahal (the collective). Perhaps you will offer, in whatever ways you can, to join them in their vision and commitment.
If not now, when?
As the Minyan moves into its 36th year, let us go from strength to strength—together.