Temple Micah seeks ideas as ‘bold’ as the Torah

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Robert Weinstein, who holds a piece of cheesecake, blew the shofar to introduce the "dangerous idea" that Temple Micah members are too comfortable with their lives. Photo by Alexa Laz
Robert Weinstein, who holds a piece of cheesecake, blew the shofar to introduce the “dangerous idea” that Temple Micah members are too comfortable with their lives. Photo by Alexa Laz

For many Jews, Shavuot is the holiday that celebrates the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai. For Rabbi Daniel Zemel of Temple Micah in Washington, Shavuot is also the “festival of the boldest and most dangerous ideas.”

“Believing in a monotheistic God, taking his laws and never having seen him was dangerous for the Jews,” Zemel told his Reform congregation during Shavuot celebrations on June 3.

Quoting Oscar Wilde, Zemel said an idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all. He invited three congregants to offer bold and dangerous ideas to mark the holiday.

Shavuot seems to get left out in the Jewish year at Temple Micah and in many Jewish communities.

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“After Passover there are six weeks before Shavuot. The holiday seems to get lost,” Zemel said. He came up with the dangerous idea theme to stir interest in Shavuot, which means “weeks” in Hebrew.

Congregant Nicola Goren spoke about nonprofits and the world as her dangerous idea. “There are deep pockets of poverty here living blocks away from the wealthiest regions,” Goren said. “My response is that these issues are solvable – we are a smart and capable society,” she said. “We need a new and different paradigm and need to think bigger and bolder.”

She told the congregants, “if we think differently about how we invest, agree on common goals everyone can work from and not be constrained by how we did things in the past, there will be promising results in a few short years,” Goren said.

Judy Hurvitz’s dangerous idea revolved around cross-generational involvement. “If we get together a group of every age and every ability we can get the job done together. We know that if we want community we have to work at it,” Hurvitz said.

She urged those in attendance to get to know fellow congregants who are decades older and decades younger than they are.

Robert Weinstein blew the shofar as an introduction to his dangerous idea that Temple Micah congregant members are too comfortable in their lives.“We pray and listen to beautiful music, we study, we eat well, we travel together,” he said. “Our story is the story of a good life.”

He noted that Temple Micah is “500 strong” but the “volunteer community has vanished. We need a common project that we each contribute to,” he said. “Let us bind ourselves together, not just for its own sake but for a mission.” It is customary to eat dairy foods on Shavuot, and the 50 members who attended ate cheesecake.

Between the dessert and the dangerous ideas, it was the congregation’s largest Shavuot service, according to Jodi Enda, Temple Micah’s president. She said she was happy with the outcome. “Whenever we have congregants think of new ideas, it is inspiring.

There are things we will talk about as a board about the best way we can do social action and social justice,” she said.

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@alexalaz130

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