AGUDAS ISRAEL CONGREGATION
Welcome to our Synagogue!
Well Being at Agudas Israel
The single greatest value in the Jewish tradition is that of saving a life. In Hebrew it’s called pichual nefesh. This notion is so strong that it goes beyond being an ethic and is actually an ethos. It suffuses the entire Jewish legal system.
My favorite example is this: If one is a tradi-tionally observant Jew who is walking with a com-panion on Shabbat, and the companion has some kind of medical emergency, one might think that the laws of Shabbat preclude using a telephone to call an ambulance. But this would be wrong. The notion of pichual nefesh demands that all rules that interfere with addressing the medical emergency immediately be suspended. The need to heal transcends ritual. The need to heal is paramount.
This ethos leads to Judaism’s high regard for the medical arts, and, to some extent, to the historic Jewish high presence of physicians and others employed in the healing arts.
The discussion of the particulars concerning healing is rich with information. But for our purposes let’s just assert that the demand for healing in the Jewish tradition frames a discussion that creates a tone, an expectation within the community. I would say that expectation is something like: We expect to live in an environment in which healing and wellness and well be-ing are values that are part of our daily world. When someone needs to be healed, Jews expect that healing, insofar as is real-istic, to take place. We expect to live in an environment in which our well being, insofar as possible, is attended to. We expect to be proactive, to eat well and exercise, to do those things that promote wellness.
As a congregation, we have taken advantage of a great op-portunity. As you know, the BJH Foundation for Senior Ser-vices has funded a nurse position at the Temple. This position was funded twice, and now has been funded for a third time. As a result, Nurse Judie Cohen will be with us again through the next year.
In the time Nurse Judie has worked with us, I have ob-served how much she has become a part of our community. More and more of our congregants are turning to her for the services she can provide. There is no doubt that she has become a well-known fixture in the Agu-das Israel Congregation community, and as a result the range and extent of the services she provides for us have increased dramatically. Many of our congregants owe something of their well-being to the services Nurse Judie has pro-vided for them, myself included.
So we thank the BJH Foundation for seeing the wisdom of bringing a nurse to our congrega-tion and helping us have on staff a nurse who is well accepted and whose skills make a serious difference to the life of our congregation.
Rabbi Philip Cohen, Ph.D.
It’s a crazy time we live in, full of sadness and joy, pain and compassion, ups and downs. As I write this I am reflecting on what I experienced in just the last few weeks and what lies ahead.
Just a week ago I, along with so many of you, shared in the joy and celebration of our Women of Valor. I felt like a proud parent, c’velling at the accomplishments of Carol, Natalie, and Randye. Their work and commitment has made a measurable difference in our congregational life. We have a bustling, active and engaged Sisterhood. We like to work and play together. Our kitchen is now prepared for major events . We had a Passover Seder in our own space with over 100 people present. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The women, synagogue, and all our members and guests glowed with the beauty of the occa-sion.
Of course, the violence in Israel has been foremost on most of our minds. We fear for the safety of the Israelis and mourn the deaths of all involved. We feel anger for the useless hatred and violence that perpetuates and escalates the conflict. Within that context, I felt pride when our Western North Carolina community came together to learn more about the situation that was evolving in Israel and to support Israel both emotionally and financially. Several hundred people gathered at a WNC Jewish Federation rally in support of Israel. We engaged in prayer and heard Micah Halpern, a well known scholar on the Middle East, provide an update on the situation as it stood. I was happy to see that Agudas Israel Congregation was well represented at this event.
Last night at Shabbat services, I listened with awe as Mal-colm Lindner spoke to us about Creating a Jewish Legacy. The awe came from both his obvious commitment to the program and from his personal courage as he faces his own battle with Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Malcolm spoke slowly but passionately, and with humor, about the importance of providing the continu-ance of our religious and cultural heritage for those who will follow us. Clear information was provided by Malcolm and McCray Benson of the Community Foundation regarding the several ways in which we can contribute to this endeavor. Each of us needs to think carefully about how we can best participate in this important program.
And now, I am sitting here writing this message while in the back of my mind I am excited and anxious about my becoming a Bat Mitzvah in only a few more days. Six of us have pursued this journey together. We have studied, prayed (particularly prayed we would remember our parts), planned and laughed together. Our individual reasons for pursuing this moment dif-fer. For some of us Bat Mitzvah was an opportunity never available when we were young. For some of us perhaps we simply wanted to learn more about how exciting and relevant our 3000 year old religion is. Some of us wanted to learn He-brew. Regardless of where we began, each of us is feeling an increase in our spiritual and religious experience.
With all these ups and downs, I am acutely aware of how important Agudas Israel Congregation is to me and to our com-munity. Our synagogue is a place where we can feel at home, connected to our Judaism, a space where we can be inspired, a source of strength and comfort, a place that touches us at some of the most important moments in our lives. We need to con-tinue to do all that is necessary, with our hands, our hearts and our dollars to be sure that the synagogue will be here whenever we need it, for whatever the reason.
Shalom, Dr. Linda Perkel