A Treasured People Enlightening Strangers and Friends (Bulletin Message for Shavu’ot 5775)

Shalom Sons of Israel!

Shavu’ot, when we celebrate the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, is the time when Israelite identity as we knew it ended. We were no longer just another Semitic people wandering around some desert. We became an am segullah, “a treasured people.” And it was a new beginning. We became part of a special covenant, an agreement that we would be an or laggoyim, “a light unto nations,” and not merely people imitating God for each other, but even for those we do not know.

While Shavu’ot is not scheduled to be my last Shabbat with the community, Shavu’ot will be the last Yom Tov that I know we’ll get to be together. It is an end, because when will we meet again next? It is a beginning for Sons of Israel because it is our transition period as you welcome a new student rabbi for the 2015-2016 year.

It has been a pleasure not only to serve Sons of Israel but to serve Sons of Israel twice! The bonds that we have formed over the two years during which I experienced the blessing of being a part of this holy community just a few minutes’ walk from a fortuitous Amtrak station will remain with me forever: the stories of Congregation Sons of Israel’s history, the life lessons I have learned from all of you, the kugel we have eaten together, and the torah we have studied together. Moving forward, I am excited to meet new Jews as I begin my career as a newly ordained rabbi, and I know that the new student rabbi in Amsterdam will be meeting with an am segullah, whose sincerity and enthusiasm for their community truly deserves the merit of our serving as a light unto the nation.

I hope our paths cross again soon—upon this new beginning.

Rabbi Jonah Rank

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