By Rabbi David Wilensky
Congregation Sons of Israel
On Feb. 12 and 13, our community will experience a celebration of unity that is infrequently experienced today in Jewish communities throughout the world. All of the Lehigh Valley synagogues-- Temple Beth El, Congregation Keneseth Israel, Temple Shirat Shalom, Chabad, Congregation Brith Sholom, Bnai Abraham Synagogue, Congregation Am Haskalah, Temple Covenant of Peace, and Congregation Sons of Israel-- will celebrate Shabbat together.
Featured as part of this event are two world renowned Chazanim, Yanky and Shulem Lemmer. Yanky is the cantor at the Lincoln Square Synagogue and Shulem is a lead member of the Shira Choir. Both have performed separately at Congregation Sons of Israel during the past year, and are brought back by strong demand. They are a well-known part of the international music and Jewish community scene. From concerts in the United States to events and performances throughout Europe and Israel, including performances at the White House, the Warsaw Ghetto 70th Anniversary Commemoration and the Barclay center in Brooklyn, the Lemmers are known as two of the greatest up-and-coming young chazzanim in the Jewish world.
There will be a community–wide Friday Night Shabbat dinner on Feb. 12 held at Congregation Sons of Israel at 6:30 p.m. The dinner will be preceded by Friday night services led by the Lemmer brothers at 5:15 p.m. Exciting youth programming for children of all ages will entertain our children throughout the evening. Shabbat morning services (again led by the Lemmer brothers) will take place Saturday morning Feb. 13, beginning at 9 a.m., and a Seudah Shlishit and Havdallah service will take place at 5:15 p.m. on Saturday.
The entire weekend program is held in memory of Dr. Steven Weiner and graciously funded in part by the Dr. Steven Weiner Memorial Fund.
Growing up in New York and enjoying the myriad benefits and luxuries that Jewish life in the New York metropolitan area had to offer, the thought of any substantive aspect of Jewish life that had escaped my Jewish experiences seemed entirely absurd. However, in the relatively short amount of time that I have spent in the Lehigh Valley, I have experienced something that often proves elusive to even the greatest of Jewish communities. The Jewish quality to which I refer is achdut, or Jewish unity. Frankly, while both a congregant and as a rabbi in the New York area, I encountered the Jewish world outside my own religious environment asinfrequently as the Philadelphia Eagles win a Super bowl. (Sorry, the sports affiliations of my New York upbringing will probably never be forgotten.) Arriving in the Lehigh Valley where all of the local Jewish clergy, no matter affiliation, got together to discuss communal issues each and every month was a refreshing experience that underscored the mutual friendship and respect all Jews, regardless of affiliation, have for each other here in our Lehigh Valley. The reason is simple and beautiful and something which sadly falls under the radar screen in the hustle bustle of larger communities – the appellations of Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist and the like, are all inconsequential – we are all Jews and that is what truly matters. The clergy who meet monthly certainly have profound ideological differences that are in no way insignificant; however, that does not put a damper on the love we feel toward one another as though we were brothers.
There is a joke told of a Jewish child who comes home from Hebrew school confused about his family’s religious denomination. He asks his mother, “Mom, which abomination do we belong to?”
And that is exactly the point. The Talmud states that Kol yisrael arevim zeh bazeh, meaning “all of Israel are responsible for each other.” We are all brothers and sisters.
As Cantor Kevin Wartell, chair of the Lehigh Valley Jewish Clergy Group has said, “As a member of this diamond of a community, I am excited to invite you to a Shabbat experience not to be missed.” Please mark your calendars as all Jews of the Lehigh Valley come together as one. We can’t wait to see you.
The cost is $30 for adults and $10 for children under 12, with a family maximum of $108. If you desire, you can just come for services. Please call April Daugherty at the Sons of Israel office at 610-433-6089 for dinner reservations for you and your family, or if you are in need of Shabbat accommodations.
Please note that in addition to Shabbat morning services at Sons of Israel, Temple Beth El, Chabad, and Brith Sholom will be holding regularly scheduled Saturday morning services for those who wish to hold services in the familiarity of their regular synagogue. In addition, following Friday night services, Keneseth Israel will hold their regularly scheduled service.