Congregation Anshe Sholom’s 120th anniversary dinner is almost upon us. I hope to see all of you at our gala celebration on Sunday evening, June 26th. The significance of the number 120 goes back to the Bible. God gave the wicked generation of the flood 120 years to repent before destroying them in the deluge. God also shortened the lifespan of man from the astronomical numbers of the antediluvian period to the more manageable numbers recorded in the later books of Scripture. It is claimed that nobody lives longer than 120, and that only Moses, by virtue of his greatness, was able to attain that milestone.
I often tell the following joke: “What do you say to someone on their 120th birthday? Have a nice day.” Implied, of course, is that they only have one day left and that all is over after 120. Well, maybe that is true for individual people, but not for institutions. While most shuls don’t last this long, a select few do. We can take tremendous pride in that accomplishment. Moreover, we are vibrant and experiencing a renaissance and upswing. The future of Anshe Sholom certainly looks more bright today, with the arrival of new members and increased congregational activities, than it did when I arrived in New Rochelle four years ago. The atmosphere in the shul is palpably different. Instead of being dominated by one demographic group or age bracket, we are now a diverse membership including people of all ages and religious inclinations.
I like to ask people what is their favorite activity at Anshe Sholom. I received some interesting answers, which I will report anonymously: a) “I love the Friday morning minyan breakfast. Bagels, cream cheese, lox, muffins, juice, and the best political banter in town. It helps that most of the guys are on my side of political aisle.” b) “Seudah Shlishit is the best part of the week at Anshe Sholom. Not so much because of the food, which has actually improved dramatically over the past year, but because of the question and answer session. Any religious or Jewish topic is fair game. Plus, one never knows what kind of absurdity will ensue.” c) “The Golden Group is most important for me. At my age, I don’t have many opportunities to socialize outside of the house anymore. But thanks to Marlene and Armand, I know I will have great time one Wednesday per month.” d) “Each week I read the rabbi’s essay during the Shabbos morning davening. It takes me a long time to get through the dense material. But that’s fine because I don’t read Hebrew so well and this sustains my attention while the others are saying Musaf.”
The shul means something different to each of us. But the unifying theme is that, for all of us, it is our spiritual home. We can congratulate ourselves on the success and longevity of our house of worship, but on one very important condition. We can take pride in the past only if we pledge to devote ourselves to the shul’s future. For some of you that will mean fiscal generosity, while for others than means time, effort, and practical involvement. I know you will all do your best and I am confident that Anshe Sholom will thrive in the future.
Rabbi Evan Hoffman