Mr. EK’s first congregation (student pulpit) was Sha’are Shalom in Waldorf, Maryland. The little synagogue that could. Totally self-supported, they rented space from a church, eventually saved enough to buy their own Torah (and the community built their own aron kodesh for it), taught each other’s children about Judaism and Hebrew, and held their own regular Shabbat services/potluck dinners. You think it’s hard being a Jew? Be a Jew in Waldorf, Maryland. The 40 families that make up the congregation are IT.
While they couldn’t afford a “real” rabbi, they imported a rabbinical student once a month from the New York HUC campus. Joshua had the honor of serving them for two and a half years, and we loved them and they loved us back. They schlepped up to NYC for Joshua’s ordination, and then again just 4 weeks later for the bris of our eldest child. We have kept in touch with several of the core families for the last decade. They have busted their butts maintaining their dedication to each other and Judaism. They were repeatedly told by the Reform Judaism Powers That Be that they should just join a larger community, even if it was farther away, totally inconvenient and didn’t serve their needs at all. Of course, they said oh Hell No.
This weekend, Joshua had the honor of participating in the dedication ceremony of their brand-new home, a beautiful synagogue and sanctuary, built by over a decade of hot dog sales at fairs, bake sales, and brick-by-brick fundraising. No more renting from a church! They have their permanent home at last! Sadly, I was unable to attend as the 5 year old had a hideous case of strep and was unable to travel. So Mr. EK and the boys went. He said it was incredible.
They are a true inspiration, especially at this time of Pesach kvetching. Most of us complain about the process, the expense, the “sacrifice.” Ahem. In truth, it’s easy for us here in Cleveland, which as a vibrant, active community with easy access to everything we need to make Pesach a success.