As I mentioned in my Shabbat message two weeks ago, I had the privilege of spending last Shabbat on the Caribbean Island of Aruba. There, on Saturday night, I had the honor of performing the wedding of a very good friend from the congregation I served in Cherry Hill, NJ. A wedding on a beach in a tropical island paradise was everything I expected and more. What a beautiful night.
What I did not expect was how meaningful the rest of the trip turned out to be. Tami and I spent a lot of time with WJC members Lauren and Michael Gottfried. Michael is an Aruba native and they still have a house and business on the island. They were gracious hosts who showed us all around the island, but the clear highlight was touring the Beth Israel Synagogue with Michael. His grandfather donated the land for the shul in 1962. It is a beautiful building in the heart of Oranjestad.
I couldn’t help but wonder, how did this little island end up with a synagogue? This wasn’t like other islands with synagogues from the sugar plantation days – no, these Jews came in the 1920s and 1930s, fleeing the clouds gathering over Europe. They wanted a stronger Jewish community and so they built a synagogue – if you build it they will come. How remarkable are the Jewish people, spreading all over the world, to different places in different times; figuring out how to live a Jewish life and build Jewish infrastructure, whatever the pressures and challenges. Thriving until the time comes to move onto the next place and figure it all out again. I am so grateful to the Gottfrieds for their hospitality as well as to the Jewish community of Aruba (especially the lay-shamash Jaco – if you happen to be in
Aruba and stop by the synagogue, send him our regards.)
We have some exciting things coming up in our little corner of the Jewish world as well. Check out the information below about exciting happenings in March like Rabbi Dalton’s Installation on March 6 (we hope you will join us for this community simcha!), a robust schedule of Purim fun March 16, 17 and 20, as well as our Scholar in Residence Shabbat with Jewish Theological Seminary Chancellor Shuly Rubin Schwartz in April. Please take a moment to register for all of these great events so we know to expect you.
See you in shul,
P.S. I will be out of town several days next week, so there will be no weekly rabbi’s message or video with the weekly email, but please check it for service times and upcoming events!