By Rabbi Mark Melamut
It was a fun filled 66th Anniversary weekend for B’nai Emunah. Friday evening potluck dinner kicked off the weekend, followed by Saturday morning services led by some of the students of our adult B’nai Mitzvah class. Sisterhood presented the congregation with a generous donation in honor of the anniversary and we celebrated with Hanukkah jelly-filled sufganiyot. The Sunrise, Sunset cafe concluded the celebration, as we lit candles to celebrate the 7th night and had a Hanukkah sing-a-long with Rabbi Gottlieb and Ricki Weintraub.
Here’s a taste of the Anniversary history along with Rabbi Mark’s benediction in honor of the day.
Dr. Kantorowksy arrived in Shanghai China in 1940 after fleeing Nazi persecution in Berlin. From Shanghai he then landed in San Francisco with other Jewish refugees, where he and a small group of 23 were the founders of B’nai Emunah. During Hanukkah 1949, the congregation was founded and included songs and prayers in Hebrew, English and German. The congregation was housed in various locations in the city until it landed in its current location on 3595 Taraval. Of note is that this location was formerly known as a night club called The Sand Dunes, where it was said to have visits from the then young musician, Jerry Garcia. Rabbi Ted Alexander took over in 1968 and helped usher in the formal transition from German to English. Upon his retirement, Rabbi Mark Melamut became the spiritual leader in 2008 and presently serves the congregation as Rabbi and Education Director.
“In many cultures miracles signify strange and mysterious events. In Hebrew the word is “nes”. It means “sign” from whose root the term “significance” is derived. To witness the miraculous is to observe in an ordinary event extraordinary significance, an event so important that it cries to be raised up and celebrated… Miracles are experienced through the capacity of human beings to turn the real into the ideal. Miracles create something out of something, something transcendent out of something ordinary…The sense of sign significance applies to our daily lives. We cannot often create or alter the given, change the diseases, accidents, misfortunes dealt out to us. We can, more often than we expect, make something out of something. Negative experiences can be converted into affirmations of life. Adversity may be used to refine the human spirit, to bring forth courage and compassion never suspected…The Hanukkah lights remind us that miracles are as real as the transforming power of ideals.” (excerpt of article from R. Harold Schulweis)
It’s in this use of miracle that I like to think of the founding and celebration of the anniversary of our beloved community, Congregation B’nai Emunah. Here, we affirm life, refine the spirit and cultivate courage, compassion and care for all. It is up to us to continue the miracle. Perhaps with a little help from that which is greater than us all, but ultimately, it is up to us to help perpetuate this miracle of a sacred community into the future. Standing in the footsteps of those who came before us, it is up to each of us to ensure a sustainable congregation into perpetuity.
To fulfill this is to give a real Hanukkah present to the congregation and can be miracle enough. As we conclude with sim shalom at the end of our service, let’s sing it with gusto, praying for peace with the power of community and emphasizing it’s message “Barcheinu avinu culanu k’eachad b’or panecha, ki b’or panecha natata lanu – Bless us all with Your Light, for by this light have You given us all a life filled with torah, kindness, well being, peace and the capacity to care for each other as a community.
Shabbat Shalom, Happy Hanukkah and Happy 66th Anniversary!