25 October 2013

A Week of Milestones


It was a week of milestones for us in Brooklyn and so an appropriate moment in time to take stock, now well into the new year, at the inspiring growth of our community.

This morning, as I have virtually every morning since Hurricane Sandy struck New York, I delivered a fresh cup of coffee to our amazing members Rozanne Gold and Michael Whiteman, who have taken the lead in making sure that the hungry of Brooklyn are fed.  Monday through Friday since last November with a brief summer respite, they have continued to lead a volunteer staff of committed community members and teams of individuals from New York Cares to daily deliver more than 500 meals.  And today, in the quiet of the CBE Kitchen, with warm coffees held aloft like sweet kiddush wine, we celebrated our 100,000th meal.  

This is a number that was virtually unfathomable a year ago; but when our Council Member Brad Lander called and asked for a few hundred meals for residents staying at the Park Slope Armory, we said "yes" and have continued to do so--long since the storm has passed--because we learned that by affirming the call to serve, we have found areas of New York that labor under hunger and need our continued love and support.  So we deliver to the Gravesend Houses, up and down Neptune Avenue, into Canarsie to church kitchens and over to Red Hook--and CBE Feeds does just that, if only so that those we encounter who are hungry should be fed.

Last week we were humbled and honored to learn that for our efforts, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's Office of Storm Recovery had awarded us $309,000, enabling us to continue our feeding program for several years.  This adds to a growing list of civic partnerships that have helped us to do this work - UJA Federation of NY, the Union for Reform Judaism, Brooklyn Community Foundation, Brooklyn Recovery Fund, City Councilman Brad Lander, the Ford Foundation, the Mayor's Fund for the City of New York, the Charles H. Revson Foundation and the Samuel Bronfman Foundation.  Our inspiring staff and volunteers have enabled us, through their work, and the generous contributions of so many more, to fulfill one of our Tradition's most ancient of commands.  Thank you.

Since the synagogue was established as an institution in Jewish life more than two thousand years ago, it has served as a Gathering Place, a House of Prayer, and a House of Study.  Not only do hundreds gather each Shabbat to sing and pray together; not only do dozens gather each week for learning across the Jewish spectrum; but several times a month now our Main Sanctuary is nearly full to capacity for our Brooklyn by the Book series which we run with our friends at the Community Bookstore and the Brooklyn Public Library.  In the last ten days we've been filled to capacity for Diane Ravitch's new book about education in America; for an intimate conversation with David Gershon-Harris about the 2002 Hebrew University terrorist bombing; and next Tuesday, Brooklyn by the Book will have its largest event yet with the author Donna Tartt's only Brooklyn visit.  

Events like this, that we have doubled in membership in the last six years, that our community reach is tireless and mission-driven--and last year's American Express contest to restore our stained glass windows--have grown our email advisory list to more than 10,000 unique names.  This means that we can reach a lot of people.  Which is, you know, awesome.

I'd go on and on but I have to run.  Our over-subscribed dual-language Hebrew-English Early Childhood Center class is calling me for Shabbat.  A classroom of three year olds, learning together and climbing all over the building blocks of our people's ancient language made new.

Anyway, the real purpose of this was a just a quick note to say how grateful we are for our successes in doing what we do--from feeding the hungry to expanding the minds of young and old and allowing all of those who seek a place of inspiration and loving kindness to call this place home.  A community that has been teaching one of Jewish civilization's most enduring values, echoed genuinely in the American discourse as well:  from the many, one.  Wherever you come from, you're home at CBE.

Thanks.  And Shabbat Shalom.

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