In this space each month, we feature the writings of one of the members of our Beth Am Clergy. This month we invite Rabbi Jaime K. Aklepi to share some thoughts with you. You may contact her at [email protected] with any comments.
A lot can happen in three years. In my family, we’ve had three graduations: one from undergrad who went on to graduate school and two from graduate school who started their careers. Those were happy occasions. I also lost my mother, and like so many others, I had to mourn in “pandemic” ways. There have been health issues in addition to a 5-for-5 Covid positivity rate. If I expand my family circle to my chavurah, there have been engagements, marriages, births, retirements, deaths and many, many graduations and new careers.
Our temple family expansively mirrors the families in my chavurah, echoing the words of Kohelet: 3:1, “There is a time for everything, a time for every experience under heaven.” As an institution, Temple Beth Am and Rambam Day School has shown remarkable growth, having opened a new school building that is filled with students. Soon The Hub will be open, expanding further our ability to serve the community.
A lot can happen in three years. The origins of Chanukah, too, happened within three years. In 168 B.C.E., Antiochus Epiphanes sent soldiers to Jerusalem to abolish Judaism and strengthen Syrian-Greek rule. All Jewish worship and practices were outlawed, including brit milah, Shabbat and festivals. On the 25th of Kislev in 168 B.C.E., the Temple was renamed for the Greek god Zeus and desecrated with idol worship and the sacrifice of pigs. The Jewish people who remained faithful to Judaism began a resistance and uprising led by the priestly family known as the Hasmoneans, also to be called the Maccabees. It took three years of brutal fighting and guerilla warfare, but by 165 B.C.E., the Jews prevailed for their faith, land, and lives. On the 25th of Kislev 165 B.C.E., the Temple in Jerusalem was reconsecrated, and the eight- day feast of dedication known as Chanukah began.
Like the time of the Maccabees, today too is a time to declare our Jewishness proudly. The fact that Chanukah has grown into a larger holiday like Christmas doesn’t mean it loses its unique character that celebrates Jewish sovereignty and freedom to be Jews. With every lit candle, latke, sufganiya and spin of a dreidel, we celebrate the history of Chanukah and the Jewish people. Our values and beliefs are made stronger, and we are safer in this climate of antisemitism each time we say proudly, “I am Jewish, and being Jewish is important to me.” This year, pay extra attention to lighting a menorah for eight nights — even on vacation. As we say, “Don’t let the light go out.”
During these last three years, we also have welcomed a new light to our temple and clergy family. Cantor Tifani Coyot joined us at a time of uncertainty as our senior cantor and brought music and soul, love for being Jewish, and incomparable skill and talent to our community. She joins us with her husband, Loïc, and two very delicious children, Natanel and Rafael (when I’m lucky, I get a hug from them). On Friday, December 9th, we welcomed and installed Cantor Coyot as our senior cantor!
A lot has happened in three years; one of them is the realization that it is important to be together!