At my alma mater, Penn State University, there is an annual event called THON, a student organized 46-hour no-sleeping, no-sitting dance marathon, which raises millions of dollars to fight pediatric cancer. I participated as a student, and as an alumna, I watch the livestream each year. While there are many reasons to support this event, there is always a moment during this 46-hour event when I’m completely awestruck by the incredible efforts of the Penn State student body. It was at THON when I first realized what it meant to be a part of something great and how I could make a small impact on the world.
In the few months that I’ve been at Shaarei Tikvah, there have been many moments when I’ve been struck with a similar feeling. Sometimes it overwhelms me when I see a student connect to prayers that are an integral part of our tradition or when a student proudly remembers to bring in tzedekah or when the community comes together to honor the memory of a treasured synagogue member. In this community, we have each played our part, large or small, in our efforts to grow and continue striving towards greatness.
Our religious school specifically continues to strive for this greatness- and we are on our way! Since last year, we have welcomed 12 new families into our community and grown our religious school from 59 to 79 students. And I thank you, our families, who are not just signing up your children for religious school, but attending Shabbat programming, religious school events, and synagogue-wide celebrations- this is what makes our community incredible. At our Afternoon of Tzedek in November, 40+ children of all ages, parents, and community members came to participate in wrapping gifts for Dayspring Community Center, assembling over 100 ‘soup in a jar’ for BJCC, baking dozens of mandel breads donated to BJCC, and creating cards to be distributed to DOROT. On special Shabbatot, when our students are participating in the main service, our attendance is nearly 100%. These are just some of the highlights, for which I’m immensely grateful to this community, which has shown me what it means to be part of something great. This energy and momentum is propelling us to excitedly begin planning new things for next year as we look at our projected growth of the religious school and our teen program.
Thank you for continuing to try new things, offer feedback, and work in partnership with me as we go from strength to strength.