Monday, June 10, 2024

In This Moment: Then and Now


As we prepare for my final service on the 21st (and don't forget to RSVP), I want to invite you to take a journey back to the future.

My installation as senior rabbi took place on Sept 11, 1992. On a special commemorative page that I created, you can watch the four-part video (including a priceless performance by our choirs) and see the program for the service, which featured "offerings" of new prayerbooks made by representatives of different demographic segments of the congregation. See the full lineup of the presenters and what they said.  At the end, you can find the original text of my remarks for that evening, including some key advice I was given by Rabbi Mark Golub. The video contains the voices and images of so many no longer with us, including Rabbi Golub, my uncle Cantor Saul Hammerman, Hazzan Rabinowitz and the unmistakable voice of Alan Kalter, who was M.C. and inspiration for the whole event, and who is sorely missed by so many, including and especially me.  

And then, at the very end of the commemorative page, you'll see one of the many notes I received back then, this one from a TBE teen, a certain Jody Siegartel. It is a note that I treasure as much now as I did then.

The text of my remarks that evening is noteworthy not only in that you can see my last-minute edits, but in how the speech reflects a vision that has carried me through from then to now; a vision of the role of the rabbi that was, I think, unique though hardly radical, reflecting the authenticity and integrity to which I always aspired. My quest was to be a "human" rabbi and not some icon on a self-made pedestal. Rabbis all-too-often become stereotypes of themselves, adopting a whole different persona to squeeze themselves into a preassigned role. I never wanted to do that. I wanted to be a fellow traveler. Most appreciated that model of leadership. Undoubtedly, some did not. You can judge for yourself how I did.

At my final service on the 21st, a number of congregants and clergy will be speaking to that theme and others, in recounting my time here and its impact on their lives.

The only downer regarding the installation is that the date of Sept. 11 would come to have an entirely different meaning a decade later. As we prepare for my final service in the coming days, let's hope the date of June 21 continues to be synonymous with the warmth outdoors and lingering light of summer solstice. I know that on that evening, warmth will be in abundance inside our sanctuary too.

Rabbi Joshua Hammerman

No comments: