13 June 2009

The Only Lighthouse We Got

A kindergarten trip to the Red Lighthouse beneath the George Washington Bridge was an opportunity to contemplate what happens when a community rallies to save a precious piece of architecture from the 1920s and insist that provide the "light" it was meant to provide.

The banks of the mighty Hudson River, the cliffs of New Jersey, the slow flowing current and the sense of history one feels, especially inside the lighthouse, protected from the elements and transported through space and time to contemplations of nature and history.

It had me thinking of our building on 8th Avenue and Garfield Place, which, while it's true that we just replaced the roof at some considerable cost, is still in need of major repair and just as significant, reconceptualization for how its space is used on a daily basis.

So last night I used the line from Numbers 8.10, where the children of Israel bestow upon the Levites the mantle of leadership for care of the sanctuary. While it may seem counter-intuitive in an ancient religious society for the people to bestow power on the religious leaders, the rabbis in the commentaries are quick to observe that the elders do have that power to convey "leadership" by virtue of their own. If the Levites were to ensure that the Eternal Light would always burn because the people made themselves responsible for making the Levites responsible, so it should be in our own buildings today--where the leadership of the the Children of Israel--those who come to our synagogue as members, be acutely aware and responsible for the condition of our sacred buildings so the Eternal Light of Torah, Community, and Prayer can always emanate from our 80+ year old buildings.

It's the only Lighthouse we got. We should treat it that way.

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