This past Shabbat, Saturday, March 3rd, I was invited to sit on the Bimah of Heska Amuna Synagogue by my new friend, Rabbi Alon Ferency. As congregants began to show up for Shabbat Shacharit services, I was continually greeted with, "So nice to see you Rabbi," or "Shabbat Shalom Rabbi..." It was very heart warming to be greeted so graciously. I would not have expected anything different as the Knoxville Jewish community is quite small - and it is very easy to get to know other members of the community - regardless of which Synagogue/Temple they attend.
As the service began, the "Saturday morning crew" began to grow and grow. There was a great sense of community at this service and I was very grateful to be present. Having been immensely wrapped in Temple Beth El and the warmth of my new community, I have been very busy. It was very nice to be able to sit back and watch as my colleague led his congregation with grace and great leadership. Rabbi Ferency has been to TBE to visit quite a few times already this year so I was glad to be able to join his congregation.
Here is my truth today - the Jewish community in Knoxville is quite small. As a community, we have some really extraordinary organizations and people. After all, we have been in Knoxville since the Civil War (or even before). However, like many religious communities, we need to work together to ensure the future of our Jewish community and really the greater Knoxville Spiritual/Religious community. I have begun to meet some of the other non-Jewish clergy in town recently and we all need to work together to continue to create the kinds of communities we all dream about.
Yes - a community filled with inspired, spiritual, educated and wonderful people. There are many, many, many wonderful people in our community. We just need to do a better job of reaching out and engaging them. This is my goal - and a goal I share with my Jewish and non-Jewish colleagues. We will work together to strengthen our communities....