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A Year of Transition and Sabbatical

It is only natural that at this time of transition, at this time preceding my sabbatical and retirement from Congregation Rodfei Zedek, I should engage a bit in what has been called “anecdotage,” thinking of many members and friends in Chicago, about them, their stories, and about what I have learned from them. I know that you will forgive me if some of those reminiscences enter into my talks over the Holidays, especially on Kol Nidre night.

Though this will be, for me, a year of transition and sabbatical, I shall officiate at Shabbat morning services when there are b’nai mitzvah and other special occasions. I’ll also officiate whenever requested, whenever possible, at funerals and unveilings. I’ll be on hand, as well, to complete all pending conversions and any other long-range commitments that are drawing to a close. Our officers and staff are planning carefully to ensure that all the needs of our Congregation are met during this period, and I’ll do all that I can do to help.

I am grateful to the congregation and to the community at large for the honors and privileges you have bestowed upon me this year and every year, and for the constant and continuing friendship, grace and generosity that you have shown to me. My tenure at Rodfei Zedek, which will end on the last day of June 2013, has been a steady and uplifting and stimulating blessing since I arrived in Chicago in July 1988.

Whatever the changes we must face, whatever the uncertainties and challenges that meet us in the New Year, the truth is that we need a new year, we need a High Holy Day season, we need our liturgy and our Congregation, in order to strengthen us and inspire us as we look ahead, both to the needs of our Congregation, and to our own needs, aspirations, goals and vicissitudes.

In Hebrew, the word for year, shana, can also mean “change.” Any new year brings changes and also helps us to creatively and constructively and enthusiastically embrace changes, especially those, like our transition, that have been mapped out thoughtfully, graciously, and with mutual affection and respect. I thank our officers, our staff, and all our members for your understanding and help.

As we enter the New Year 5773, I am reminded of a poem by a longtime Rodfei Zedek member, Rose Newberger. I encountered the poem while researching some of our old bulletins not long after I first arrived in Chicago. Rose Newberger passed away before I met her, but I learned that she was a quiet and thoughtful person who could often be seen at lectures at the University of Chicago. She and her husband, Dr. Charles Newberger, an eminent obstetrician, attended Shabbat services at Rodfei Zedek every week for many years. Dr. Newberger, who would occasionally lead services, was a first cousin to past Rodfei Zedek president, Herman Newberger. Herman’s son, Arnold, was later to succeed him as president, and, together with his siblings, to continue his father’s tradition of endowing the Social Hall in our synagogue.

Rose Newberger’s poem, “The New Year,” summarizes my message to you at the beginning of a new year of transition and of “anecdotage,” and conveys with it my wishes for a good and blessed year to each and every one of you, to our Congregation, to the People Israel, to Hyde Park and to Chicago as a whole, and to all of humanity.

B'vrachah, with every blessing,
Rabbi Elliot B. Gertel

by Rose Newberger

Awake! The New Year is about to be born;
Arise! Let not your fond hopes feel forlorn;
Rejoice! Forget the storms and thunder,
And cease to be so downcast, brother.

Again create your statues, sculptor, too, inventor,
Hew the marble, or with precision, fasten steel;
Compose and play again, musicians, your theme so tender,
And poets, your raptures let us feel.

Welcome, New Year, but bon voyage, like a ship of state;
No cloud or fear shall your trip o’ertake;
For you must reach port without a tear,
For all Israel so needs you, dear Happy New Year.

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Tue, February 20 2024 11 Adar I 5784