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Message from Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Shaarey Zedek Rabbi Alan Green

by Rabbi Alan Green, posted here Feb 26, 2023


[Editor's note: Congregation Shaarey Zedek sent out this message from Rabbi Green on Feb 23, 2023]

Greetings from Fairfield, Iowa! Those who know something about Iowa will know that the University of Iowa, with its 30,000 students, is located in Iowa City—about an hour north of Fairfield. Iowa City is where we go for a taste of real city life and its various cultural offerings. 
But little Fairfield, with its large meditating population, has its fair share of international restaurants, organic shopping, and two venues featuring “the best acts you’ve never heard of.” Fairfield also is home to Congregation Beth Shalom, an all-volunteer synagogue my wife Chaya helped to found some forty years ago.
Still in all, Chaya and I miss the Shaarey Zedek community. Over the years I served as your rabbi, we built an attractive Jewish blend of the ancient and the modern, traditional learning and contemporary spirituality. Looking back, I feel happiest with the updated Shabbat morning and High Holy Day services we initiated several years ago. 
It was an exacting process, in which we distilled the essential elements of each service, and then created space to deepen people’s understanding of those elements. These services were designed to serve the genuine spiritual needs of people with many different levels of Jewish comprehension. They succeeded, and they continue to succeed in doing so today.
Covid has been a mixed blessing for our community. On one hand, Covid spawned a video technology which enables people to enjoy Shaarey Zedek’s offerings from their home, wherever that happens to be. On the other hand, Covid has eroded the idea of physically coming to synagogue for spiritual rejuvenation. 
While video conferenced services are now an established part of our spiritual menu, I contend they cannot compare to a service in which people dress, journey, and interact face-to-face in physical, sacred space. Facetime is a tremendous vehicle for overcoming the barriers of time and space. But face-to-face time is how human beings have evolved since time immemorial. It’s how our nervous systems are wired, and where spiritual interaction most naturally takes place.
As we continue to move forward from “Covid consciousness” into more normal paths of social interaction, I hope and pray that we will fulfill the most essential purpose of our synagogue. “Synagogue” in Hebrew is Bet K’nesset—"a house in which people gather.” Those gatherings have multiple purposes, of course. And even religious services are venues for people with multiple motives. But regardless of the specific reasons people may attend Shaarey Zedek, the same higher purpose is always fulfilled, whether we know it or not.
There is a blessing in coming and participating in synagogue life. Research has repeatedly shown that people of faith report feeling better and healthier. One of the most striking findings in social epidemiology is that religious involvement with God is better for your body in terms of immune function and reducing loneliness. As God says in the book of Exodus (20:24), “In every place I cause My name to be remembered, I will come to you and bless you.”
It's so wonderful to connect with Congregation Shaarey Zedek once again, even using this written format. When it comes to Spirit, which is universal, timeless, and spaceless, there really are no limits. Good wishes and blessings transcend time and space. So—here it comes! I wish everyone great blessings of good health, great happiness, Naches from family, and much fulfillment for 2023 and beyond.
Kol Tuv! 
Rabbi Alan Green
Rabbi Emeritus
Congregation Shaarey Zedek
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