As president of an Atlanta synagogue, I was honored to sit on the bimah, a very special vantage point. While the congregation was facing east, from my seat the view was west; I had the wonderful privilege of seeing everyone’s faces. The foyer door would open, a worshiper would enter, and their eyes would sweep the room with anticipation. Only then did they take their usual seat.
In this topsy-turvy, one-day-at-a-time year in which we’re separated from loved ones, I look with my own anticipation for the door to open on a new year and to reveal our place and our path. As I approach the threshold, I am taking stock of how I feel, what I anticipate and what will help propel me to a familiar spot.
In March, the world became a scary place and familiar surroundings morphed to sources of apprehension. Six months later, I’ve learned how deeply we can reach within ourselves for strength, fueled by determination and fortified by respect for one another’s safety. Whoever would have imagined that Dr. Fauci would become our rabbi, our teacher, our mara d’atra?
As I reach for the door, I am in fact eager to enter the sanctuary of 5781. I have been witness to the kindness of people reaching out in support of others and of me.
This is a congregation of which I want and need to be a part. It is an affirmation that normal people do normal things, caring for one another, speaking respectfully, distancing, wearing masks, listening, all a testimony to the sanctity of life and our recognition we are each created in God’s image.
This new year, it’s not a sanctuary with walls that I will enter at Rosh Hashanah. When I Zoom with a screen of faces, many familiar and some unknown, what thrills me is knowing we are each seekers, literally coming together from our separate spaces. Kitchen, study or porch … our surroundings create the mishkan [tabernacle] for our souls and our prayers. Not all embrace an online platform as a halachic or a worthy vessel, but who would ever have conceived of an ark for such purpose, either?
As I move to take a seat in 5781, I seek a new vantage point with a resilient outlook. Our six-year old granddaughter explained that Rosh Hashanah is when the world was born. Oh, would that it be reborn this year. May it be a year in which we see one another face-to-face. May the masks we wear be only those we put on to protect one another. May we each reach our destined place in 5781, arriving with determination, strength and hope.
Margo Gold is past international president of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. In Atlanta, she served as president of Ahavath Achim Synagogue from 2010-12 and as president of Congregation B’nai Torah from 1991-1993.