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Kenny's 2013 (5774) kol nidre speech

09/14/2013 01:29:21 AM

Sep14

Good evening. I'm Kenny Bookbinder and this is the Kol Nidre Appeal, 5774.

 

As you know, this is the third service of this High Holiday season. I have had the opportunity to speak with hundreds of you. And just about everyone has commented on how much earlier than usual the Holidays are this year. Then I got to thinking that I am really the one most affected by this.

 

Instead of the usual 52 or 53 weeks to prepare the appeal, I have only had 50.

 

All of us here have the opportunity to contribute to our Shul tonight. And unlike other organizations that you may support, you can see right before your eyes, the results of your generosity.

 

You are our community and we are your Shul.

 

I have a note here that says talk about the train. What train you might be asking?

 

Well, I live in Westchester. And I am in the city about twice a week. My office and warehouse are less than a 5 minute walk from Metro North. It is so simple and easy to get to Grand Central. It has also been 15 years since I last took the train. I enjoy driving, my iPod, the radio and an occasional call on my bluetooth. But here's the thing. If I sit on a train, I want to sit alone. I don't want to sit in a seat that is facing the wrong direction. I don't want to sit next to the bathroom. If I have to sit next to someone, I don't want it to be someone who is chomping on gum, taking my armrest, and worst of all – someone who wants to talk.

 

I have a lot of problems.

 

But then one day last spring, I had two appointments in Grand Central and one in the Chrysler building around the block. It was pouring and it made no sense for me to drive. I get on the train. I have my own row. I am facing the direction I wanted. The Hudson looked great, even in the rain. The announcement comes that we are arriving at Grand Central. What a breeze! I start thinking what a schlemiel I have been.

 

I finish up my day, get on the train home. It's pretty crowded, but I get my own two person row, sit on the aisle, and bury myself in the sports section of the Post. The train begins to fill up. So far, so good.

 

But then, I get invaded by a very large man with the world's largest briefcase, and a yarmulke on his head. At this point, the train starts and I am totally covered in newsprint. Then I hear a voice. His voice. My worst nightmare. And you know what he said?

 

You Jewish?”

 

I'm shocked, and I don't shock easily. So I wait a while and then I finally mumble, “Yes, but only on my mother's and father's sides.” I thought that might shut him up.

 

Then I start thinking that it has been so long since I was on a train, is it possible that the Lubavitchers have their own car now?

 

So, he is quiet for a bit, digests my answers I guess, and then says, “What kind of Jew are you?”

 

I answer, that I, am a tired Jew. I get up, move to another car, find a seat facing the wrong direction and grab it. And I arrive home happy, but shaken. So I had dinner, chilled out a bit, and then began to think, “What if I was the type that would enjoy conversing with a stranger on a train?”

 

How would I have responded to what kind of Jew am I? Or to what kind of Shul do I go?

 

I would tell him about this Shul. And that we are very welcoming and inclusive. That we invite and regularly have at our services interfaith couples, people of all faiths, people of little faith, those who have had negative experiences at religious institutions, and as the Rabbi has said, from atheists to Zoroastrians. Atheists being those with no invisible means of support.

 

I would tell him that we reach out to all four major types of Jews.

 

1. ORTHODOX

2. CONSERVATIVE

3. REFORM, and

4. SPORADIC

 

I could envision him saying that he understood the welcoming part and all that. But do the women sit with the men? Or behind them? Or in the balcony? Are they allowed to serve on the board?

 

I would say that the women and the men sit together. That our Co-President's name is Karen, and that the Co-President before her and one of the co-founders of our Shul has the name Vera.

 

I would talk about the Orensanz, the splendor, the tradition, the continuity, and the vision of its owners, Al and Angel Orensanz. And that Al is considered to be the Prince of the Lower Eastside.

 

I would, of course, tell him that Yogi Berra is an honorary member. And that Yogi once referred to this Shul, “as ostensibly, a bunch of reform Hasidim.”

 

Well, Yogi did say that half of the things he said, he didn't say.

 

Actually, in many ways we are a kind of reform Hasidim. We welcome the Shabbos bride. Rejoice in our faith and traditions. We sing. We dance. And we are a spiritually based congregation with love being the cornerstone of the Rabbi's teaching and narrative

 

We do, however, differ considerably from our Hasidic sisters and brothers, as to customs, dress, views on egalitarianism, etc.

 

Anyway, by this time I am sure that guy will never take another train.

 

I would talk about the Shul of love.

 

I choose love because the burden of carrying hate is too great.” These are not my words, or even Rabbi Burt's, but those of Martin Luther King and are part of the Shul's philosophy. Rabbi Burt has taught us about embracing love, forgiveness and compassion. And about his distaste for hatred and anger.

 

On this holiest night and day of the year, Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, he reassures us that we are good people, not major sinners, and while we should atone for and be aware of our transgressions, it is also perfectly fine to pat ourselves on the back and know that we do good things, and that we can all do better.

 

Now what about the Shul Band? Sabrina, Rebecca, Lisa, and Lilly, what beautiful and amazing voclalists you are.

 

Adam Seidman, Matt, Dave, Howard, Jayson, thank you all so much. You are all so good at what you do.

 

Seth, thank you for your musical skills and for all you do for our Shul.

 

Mary, it's been a pleasure watching you play the drum both with the Shul Band and on your own. It has been fun driving you and the drum and your chair to your rehearsals and performances. I am also grateful that you didn't take up the tuba.

 

Ernesto, Luis, and Alberto, what you guys can do with a violin! You three give so much to the Shul. We are proud to have you as part of our family, our community. And Margherita, thank you for having these guys, and for being part of our community.

 

And that leaves Adam Feder, our Music Director. Many of you know Dayenu sung at the end of seders. Dayenu meaning enough. As in, if God had only freed us from slavery, that would have been enough, dayenu. And if God had only parted the Red Sea, dayenu. You get the idea.

 

Adam, if you only played guitar as well as you do, dayenu!

 

If you played guitar and sang as well as you do, dayenu!

 

If you played and didn't rehearse as much as you do, dayenu!

 

If you recruited the perfect complement of singers, dayenu!

 

Adam, there are many more dayenus that I don't have time for. Thank you.

 

If you feel as I do, that the band should get paid more, in a couple of minutes you can help make that happen when your fellow congregants will come by to collect your contributions.

 

And Rabbi Burt. Thank you for allowing and encouraging all who are interested, and willing to participate in, new challenges to try them.

 

There are so many people here who fit that description. Thank you for your steadiness, your resolve, and your uplifting spirit. You are the difference-makers in our lives. So there you have it.

 

Are we perfect? No. Do we do everything right? No, no no.

 

One glaring deficiency is our fundraising. Do you get an appeal from us every day? Every month? Every holiday? No. Some Shuls have weekly appeals, or an appeal for everything including Lag Baomeer, Tish Buv, and Shavouth. We just put that energy into everything we can do to support and further develop our community.

 

Do we have a building fund? Well, it's more like, if we build it, they will come.

 

So we roll the dice that you will step up this one night a year, Kol Nidre, right now and make a generous contribution.

 

We are your Shul. You are our community. And we greatly need your support tonight.

 

We try to make giving as easy as possible. There is an envelope in the back of every prayerbook, and with that we accept all major credit cards, cash and checks.

 

The Talmud speaks of giving as being equal to all the commandments, and of anonymous giving as its highest form. The IRS says, “Show us a receipt.” So we are very happy to give you an acknowledgement.

 

If you came in tonight with a certain limit of contribution in mind, remember what Michael Jordan said at his Hall of Fame induction. “Limits, like fears, are often illusions.” Please try to give more.

 

We are your Shul. You are our community.

 

If you are negative, please remember that negativity is a weapon of mass distraction and does no one any good. Be Positive.

 

This is your Shul. We are your community.

 

If you are counting on the person next to you to make a contribution, and you will sit this one out, well, if everyone or almost everyone takes this stance we won't be here worshipping together next year.

 

We are your Shul. You are our community.

 

If you are a philanthropist, please disregard the adage that hell hath no wrath as that of the children of a philanthropist. They'll get over it. Give a lot.

 

We are your Shul. You are our community.

 

If you are ambivalent about giving tonight, please take a leap of faith and move to the positive side of your ambivalence.

 

The Shul of New York is your Shul. You are our community.

 

Rabbi, I thank you, the board, and most of all, you, our congregants for giving me the platform to share my passion for The Shul of New York on this holiest of evenings – one so crucial to our Shul's future, as well as its present.

 

Thank you and please give generously.

 

 

Please donate to the High Holiday Appeal.

 

Sat, December 7 2019 9 Kislev 5780