In an article titled, “What Is Reform Judaism?” Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, President Emeritus of the Union for Reform Judaism, identified five religious principles that distinguish Reform Judaism:
Reform Jews are committed to a Judaism that changes and adapts to the needs of the day.
Reform Jews are committed to the absolute equality of women in all areas of Jewish life.
Reform Jews are committed to social justice.
Reform Jews are committed to the principle of inclusion, not exclusion.
Reform Jews are committed to a true partnership between the rabbinate and the laity.
Focusing on the first of these principles, for nearly 5778 years, the Jewish people has become quite skilled at changing and adapting. Innovation can be at once challenging and exhilarating. Embracing the new and adapting to the needs of the moment – our moment — is what has kept our practice and prayer fresh and meaningful.
So what’s new at IHC?
This year at IHC we welcome new team members and experiment with some new High Holy Days processes. Just last November, Dan Silien joined our team as Executive Director. This is Dan’s first High Holy Days season at IHC! Dan is trying out some innovative ideas to streamline your High Holy Days experience by implementing new processes while lowering costs to the Temple budget. I invite you to introduce yourself to Dan and share any ideas you may have for making the High Holy Days better and better each year.
In addition, we welcomed Aaron Wooden to our building staff in June. Together with Ben and Brian, Aaron is committed to assuring our building is ready to welcome all of you and our sanctuary is a place of reflection and peace.
This year at IHC we will hear Avinu Malkeinu sung by a new voice – the beautiful voice of our High Holy Days Cantor Betsey Peters-Epstein. Cantor Peters-Epstein will join our choir, both professional and volunteer, our High Holy Days Choral Director, Dr. Michael Messina, and our Cantorial Soloist, Dr. Tami Krichiver. And this year, we also welcome Michael Berg-Raunick, a member of the IHC community who just happens to be the Director of Counterpoints, North Central High School’s award-winning show choir. We are certain the musical styles and melodies, both familiar and new, will touch your heart and lift your spirit.
This year at IHC we will read from a new machzor or High Holy Days prayer book, Mishkan Hanefesh: Machzor for the Days of Awe, thanks once again to the incredible generosity of Dr. Dan and Alana Spitzberg, and to the efforts of Rabbi Brett and the members of our High Holy Days Prayer Book Task Force.
Beyond its gender-neutral language, this new prayer book offers fully transliterated liturgy, contemporary poetry and alternative readings, and rich commentary drawing from Jewish tradition. You may recognize some elements of the Gates of Repentance. You will also experience meaningful liturgy whether you regularly pray at IHC during the High Holy Days, you are new to our community, or you are new to Jewish spirituality and practice.
One big difference that I find especially intriguing is the shofar service. Instead of containing the shofar blasts in a single section following the Torah service, Mishkan Hanefesh “takes the three themes of the shofar service and presents them in three different parts of the service, towards the beginning, in the middle, and close to the end.” You can read more about this innovation here: http://blogs.rj.org/blog/2013/04/25/the-new-reform-machzor-and-the-shofa…
This year at IHC we will each embark on the spiritual work of repentance or Teshuvah. The literal meaning of this Hebrew word is “turning” or “returning.” One of the many gifts of our tradition is the opportunity, each year, to turn away from unhealthy and sometimes destructive paths, reorient ourselves anew and return to the good human beings we are capable of being. In that spirit, if I have offended or hurt you or anyone in our community or if I have fallen short in my roles at IHC or in our relationship, I ask your forgiveness.
May the new year be sweet, filled with joy, contentment, and good health for everyone in our sacred community. May it be a year of connection with family, friends old and new, and our beautiful 5778-year-old tradition.
Patti Freeman Dorson