Sadly, this will be my last bulletin at Emanuel. So, I thought I would borrow from my reflection Saturday night at the Havdalah of Gratitude. For all you in physical and virtual attendance, I am most thankful. And I am especially grateful to Leah Jones and her team for all that went into the production - a true act of mentschlikeit and grace I will never forget.
This Thursday marks the beginning of the new month of Tammuz, and as we approach this new month and new moon, it makes sense for us to think about something that will empower us to make Tammuz really matter, as we make our journey forward - a journey that will soon take a different tack.
For some insight for the days ahead, we turn to this week’s new Torah portion Korach. On one hand, the parasha is a cautionary tale about Korach, who because of his arrogance and jealousy separates himself from the community and disqualifies himself as a leader - despite his native talent to be a good one. On the other hand, Korach is also a celebratory story about the excellence of Moses as a leader, one who connects with his community in a spirit of collaboration and interdependence. To be sure, such collaboration and interdependence isn’t always so simple to achieve, but Moses and the people persisted. And Moshe continued to appreciate and champion the opportunity to create vision and community with the people around him; no matter what challenges, he had no regrets. That’s how I feel. Like Moses. Only appreciation. No regrets. Grateful for the chance to work with you these last five years, to dream with you, and to propel Emanuel and its mission forward b’yachad (together).
In fact, I am so proud of our mission and appreciate our collaboration in trying to fill it each day:
At Emanuel Congregation, we open our doors to all who seek richer, more meaningful lives. Together, our diverse community engages in prayer, lifelong learning and tikkun olam (repairing the world), empowering adults and children alike to apply Jewish values to our everyday lives and to be a collective force for good.
What a beautiful and noble mission it is! Working to be part of our collective force for good - alongside you - has been an amazing and blessed responsibility. Thank you all for the opportunities you gave me as your spiritual leader to propel our mission forward and to make a difference for our 141-year-old legacy congregation.
Thanks to my family: Betsy, Cara, Jared and our mighty Zeus - whose unconditional love and support and unselfish sharing of me empowered me to lean into my leadership.
Thanks to my professional team: Shelly Friedman, Sarabeth Salzman, Mandy Herlich, Michael Zedek, Nicole Tuthill, Jessica Katz, Lorraine Fogarty, Brian Baren, Sarah Milstein, Ruthie Seidner, Amy Guth, Michael Cohen, Antonio Rangel, Jose Pagan, Chris Rabago, Dan Banks Jr. (and the rest of our custodial team), Trinity McHatten (and the rest of our security team), Tani Prell Epstein, Toby Manewith, Elizabeth Cohen, and all the other staff with whom I had the privilege to work with over the years. You taught me about sacred service and teamwork.
Thanks to all the presidents with whom I served: David Rakofsky, Leah Jones, Dan Smolensky, and Jill Gardner plus all the other trustees, past presidents, and committee, action team, and task force members. To create a shared vision with you was a special blessing.
Thanks to the Eeshas and Jo McCauley, the Men of Emanuel and Dave Fleischman, our former Sisterhood, and, last but not least, our youth group under the leadership of Brian Baren and Sarah Milstein, two Jewish professionals for whom I am doubly thankful. Our Auxiliary work has continually fortified a spirit of welcome here at 5959 North Sheridan Road and beyond its walls.
Thanks to ECRA, Care for Real, CARR, CBR, our collaboration with JCFS and the Lakeview synagogues, RAC-IL, JCUA, OneNorthside, and any other organization with whom we partnered. And I cannot forget our beautiful connection with Rev. Greg Sabetta and our High Holiday Choir - as well as Rocco Cataldo and Mike Kweilford who helped Amy Guth during the pandemic organize one of the most beautiful and memorable High Holidays we could ever imagine. In each of these cases, I love that we were able to expand our impact together. All of us are stronger together than one of us is alone.
Thanks to everyone who learned with me, taught me, engaged with me and modeled for me the power of inclusion and engagement. With special gratitude, I thank:
all our religious school students, their families, and faculty;
Jay Rothenberg, Miriam Kalichman, Bob Fields, Devorah Heyman, Ben Abrams, Scott Phillips, Lynn Pavalon and others (who helped me reach more learners);
Tani Prell Epstein, John Trumaine Clay, z”l, Greg and Reika Greiff, Billy Goodman, Reuben Lewy, Bethann Grabelsky, Don Olsen, Sam Sagi, Lloyd Bachrach, Joan Mendelson, Gus Caicedo, Jonathan and Meg Porter, Dan Sniderman, Laura Elligator, Bindy Bitterman, Bob Heyman, Marsha Weinstein and any others who taught me inclusion is more than just diversity;
Deb Porter, Ellen Caicedo, Iris Marreck, Joy Getzenberg, Laurel Crown, the entire Ham It Up Band, and any others for helping me reimagine in some shape, way, or form our spiritual life, our chesed work, our tikkun olam efforts and other respective aspects of transformation;
Col. Jennifer Pritzker and Tawani Foundation for helping us plant the seeds for 5959 Chicago and the inspiration to be spiritual and socio-cultural entrepreneurs;
Marvin and Phyllis Goldblatt, Gerald and Barbara Yusen, Ellen and Werner Heimann, Carolyn Heyman, Shifra Werch, Jules Graham, Robert Guttman, Hud Englehart and Donna More, the Telispeople, the Toppels, the Reismans, the Fernbach-Russell family, the Zackler-Yanes family, and last but not least, the Bertocchi-Warnaar family (Susan, Mark, Harry, Albert and Rosalie) who made my family and I feel at home, helped me feel more comfortable in my own skin, or in some cases, both.
Rabbis Felix Levy, z”l, Herman Schaalman, z”l, Joseph Edelheit, David Sofian, Michael Zedek and all the early Senior Rabbis for paving the way. I am so honored to have been Emanuel’s No. 9!
If somehow I have overlooked you here, please accept my apology, know that I am thankful for any and all who helped me find purpose and success at Emanuel, and accept the following as a gift of peace and hope to you and to us all. It’s a Rosh Chodesh prayer by my teacher, Rabbi Sheila Peltz Weinberg:
Dear God, God of our mothers and fathers,
Renew us this month of Tammuz and this year 5781
Toward goodness and blessing
Toward the joyful
Toward liberation and challenge, as well as
Toward patience and consolation
Toward becoming ever more human beings.
Let us become capable of supporting ourselves,
Our families and friends,
Let us serve our community in dignity.
Toward life and peace
Toward observing our blindness
Toward struggling with our goals
Toward forgiving ourselves and each other.
You brought us near with an intention
You gave us the awareness of the cycles of the moon.
May we use this gift as an opportunity
To understand what you intend for us.
Thank you for inviting us to share your holiness and
This holy moment of the New Moon and the blessings that we’ll enjoy down the road.
And for one last, official time I close with the usual:
Make it a day of blessing! Be a force for good! And, stay in the fight!
Zei gezunt (Be well):
Rabbi Craig Marantz