As a Consequence

Adath’s year of Centennial Shabbat Evening Services celebrating our 100 years concluded on August 4, 2023 with a service dedicated to the most recent decades of our existence, the 2000s and 2010s. The Torah portion that Shabbat, Ekev, teaches us the importance of consequences. Our actions have an impact, and we do matters:

Deuteronomy 7:12-13a

And if you do obey these rules and observe them carefully, the Lord your God will maintain faithfully for you the covenant made on oath with your fathers: [God] will favor you and bless you and multiply you.

The medieval commentator Abraham ben Meir ibn Ezra notes that the word ekev in the first verse of our parasha denotes a consequence:

BECAUSE. Ekev (because) has the same meaning as ekev (reward) in For ever, reward (Ps. 119:112). It means the reward which will be given at the end.

We can choose to follow God’s ways or not, but there will be consequences, either good or bad. These words apply not only to us as individuals, but to us as a community as well. The actions that we as a Jewish community make have an impact. All the work that generations of members and leaders at Adath has brought us to this place, not only physically in this building in Lawrenceville, but spiritually too.

The theme of the parasha is “Because of …” and the theme of this centennial year at Adath is also “Because of …”. Because of the hard work and sacrifice of our founders, we have the first Conservative synagogue in the area. Because of the dedication of so many we had a thriving shul in Trenton for decades. Because of the vision of leaders in the 1980s we have this piece of property. Because of the talent and commitment of so many, we have our current beautiful building. As we celebrate the last 20 or so years of Adath’s history, we appreciate all that was done so that we can now be rewarded with such a momentous celebration of 100 years.

The last two decades have seen wonderful highs for our community but tremendous lows as well. Our community was deeply affected by the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. The synagogue hosted a community service two days later on September 13 and published a special edition of the Adath Israelight, as the newsletter was called then, a few weeks later. Here are some excerpts:

We dedicate this edition to all of us so deeply affected by the horrific, unimaginable evil that took place the morning of September11, 2001.

Our hearts reach out to the Reiss Family on the loss of their son and brother, Joshua Reiss.

Selections from Rabbi Daniel T. Grossman’s speech from the community service held at Adath Israel on September 13, 2001:

It is a moment of horror; it is a terrible tragedy; it is the reality of an open wound which brings us here this evening. It is also our need to sit beside our neighbors and weep with them. To feel a commonality of various faith communities that are united in the belief that life matters, who we are matters, and what we do matters. We are united in our desire to seek God’s help and healing …

On this evening some may ask “Where was God?” First we must say “what has man done!” It is the evil, hatred, and the absence of any true image of a Creator which allows those responsible for these horrific crimes to destroy thousands of times over human life created in the image of God.

Where was God? God was and is in every helping hand and straining back trying desperately to find life in the carnage of death. God was in a room I left just two hours ago — filled with friends trying to comfort parents, grandparents, brothers, and sister of a 23 year old lost and presumed dead. God was in their tears and in their touch …

Our world has been traumatized — it has not been destroyed. Our values have been attacked, but they remain. Our institution of society has been assaulted, but freedom and democracy did not miss a beat.

An excerpt from Rabbi Daniel T. Grossman’s Sermon Given On The First Day Of Rosh Hashanah:

This week synagogues, churches, mosques were filled each day. Here at Adath Israel Thursday night, Friday, and Saturday morning we filled the synagogue looking to God for guidance, strength, for comfort. When our lives are once again at ease, will we slip into old habits and forget our way to the synagogue, or will we take the time to remember the comfort we found in each other in our crisis and fill this synagogue with gratitude when our world is rebuilt? There are those, like the terrorists, who would pervert and distort religion to a call for hatred and destruction. Will we in time remember the words of the Iman Ali from this Bimah — when he said, “Any religion which preaches hate — is no religion at all.”

After 911 we were all reeling from the consequences of the actions of only a few terrorists. We had to contend for many years with death and destruction, war and fear. The community went on to recover from the tragedy of 911 and continue to build because of the strength of the bonds that Adath members had built.

In 2008 Adath dedicated a brand-new Torah, which was the consequence of finding an error in an old Torah while it was being read during services. That moment sparked an educational program for Adath to learn about Torah scrolls and because of it, we have a beautiful Torah to read from each week.

That same year we held our first Sacks-Wilner Holocaust Education Program as a consequence of the dedication of the Sacks-Wilner/Gallon family to keep the memory of the Shoah alive. Because of that commitment, we have had 16 annual programs that have taught so many and continue to help ensure the Holocaust will never happen again.

Because of the hard work of the leaders of both Adath and Ahavath Israel, the two synagogues merged in 2010. The two communities joined together b’vayit echad, in one home. Our physical space incorporated both shuls with pictures and history in our rotunda. Our chapel bimah is dedicated to Ahavath and its memorial boards were seamlessly integrated into our memorial gallery. The consequence is that today we celebrate the history and tradition of two amazing congregations, one 100 years old and one, Ahavath, 114 years old.

The most recent great challenge we have had to face as a community was the COVID-19 pandemic. As it was following 911, because of the strong bonds of friendship, care, and concern among our members, we stayed connected even as we were apart. We mourned for the dear people we lost. We used technology to pray, learn, and socialize, and we reached out to people we knew and people we got to know only during the pandemic as we called members who became friends. As a consequence, our community has been transformed.

As we look forward to the next 100 years of Adath’s history, who knows what challenges and rewards the future will bring. We cannot predict the future, but we can take to heart the message Moses gave to the people in our parasha. If we build on the success of the past, if we stay true to the covenant, if we are dedicated to our tradition, there is nothing we cannot accomplish together.