In a speech at Hebrew Union-College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Or Ami congregant Seth Front kvells about the positive impact that Congregation Or Ami interns and rabbis have had on their daughter Amanda.
The history of Touro Synagogue, the oldest synagogue in the United States, offers lessons about social justice and religious tolerance that resonate even today.
Video written & directed by Seth Front: http://sethfront.com
Performed by Nancy Linder: http://nancylinder.com
Music by Jeff Klepper & Dan Freelander
When in your life has the sea split (metaphorically) allowing you to walk freely into your life? This is the question I posed to our community (at Congregation Or Ami and our Facebook friends), as I prepared for Shabbat Shira (the Sabbath of Song) which remembers the splitting of the Red Sea. So many responses came through and I invited three people to share their insights. Seth Front shares his reflections below on “You Cannot Go Back”.
The whole process became a blogpost (Facebook Post becomes Serious Sermon). The services was recorded; Seth speaks at 27:28).
You Cannot Go Back, by Seth Front
What I find interesting is not that the Red Sea parts and the Israelites walk through to a new life, but rather than the Red Sea closes behind them so that it is impossible to return to their old life in Egypt.
This is a perfect visual representation of what happens when we make important life decisions. Whether it is an active decision or a more passive “ah ha” moment of clarity, it is as if the sea parts for us so we can move forward to a life of fuller authenticity. These moments of actualization sometimes occur from great stress but just as often occur at a moment’s notice, as if an act of God.
Although these moments are life changing, it’s important to remember the other part of the allegory: the closing of the Red Sea, the closing off of our past life.
Sometimes a decision, an event or a realization is so life-altering that it is impossible to return to the way we once were, just like the Israelites couldn’t return to their lives of slavery in the “fleshpots of Egypt.” Who we are has changed, and as our perception of ourselves and the world changes, so too do our relationships. Having passed through the Red Sea, there’s no way we can go back to “business as usual.”
Some relationships will fall by the wayside while others will be changed both by how we perceive ourselves and also by how others will change in response to us. Either way, there’s no going back to the way we once were because that past no longer exists. It has been replaced by a new reality, a new perception of ourselves, and a new world.
And so, energized by the changes, and nervous about them too, we walk forward freely, saying:
Mi Chamocha ba’eilim Adonai… – Who is like you O God.Norah tehilot, oseh felehAwesome and praiseworthy, doing wonders.
|Amanda Front (left) at Camp Newman
with friend Jacqui Osborn
Amanda Front, a teenager at Congregation Or Ami, joined her father Seth Front for a trip to Orange County, CA to promote URJ Camp Newman to kids at Temple Beth David in Westminster, the temple where Seth’s father Henri Front served as Rabbi. Amanda reflected upon her first summer there. What she wrote was so beautiful, and delivered so eloquently, we had to share it with everyone who was such a big part of her first summer at Camp Newman.
The URJ Camp Newman Experience By Amanda Front
“URJ Camp Newman.”
Just hearing those words brings a smile to my face and precious memories into my head. The highlight of my summer was spending two weeks at Camp Newman. This was my first time ever going to sleep-away camp and I am already counting down the days until I go back to camp next summer: 234 days!!!
The staff is amazing! The counselors are the best! They are responsible, fun, friendly, and caring. They are always there to talk to and have fun with like a friend, and then when it comes time to do something important, they are very responsible and professional.
Being that this was my first time at camp, I was very nervous and not sure I wanted to go. I was going to have to go on a plane without my parents. I was scared I was going to land at the Oakland airport and not know where to go. But right when we got off the plane, we saw camp counselors awaiting our arrival, greeting us with smiling faces!!! I knew at that moment that this would be an amazing experience.
Shabbat at camp is one of the most beautiful things I have ever experienced in my whole life. The whole camp dresses in white and we have an amazing service. My favorite part is when the counselors bless us. They sing a blessing and hold tallit over our heads. This is so beautiful that it brought tears to my eyes, knowing I was in such a special place with amazing people.
Dan Nichols is a Jewish singer/songwriter. We sing his songs at camp and he comes to camp every summer to share his music with us. One of his songs perfectly describes the Camp Newman experience: “When I reach out to you and you to me, we become B’tzelem Elohim.” Camp is a Kehillah Kedosha, a holy community, where you feel like you are a part of something special…and you are. I encourage all of you to become part of the Camp Newman “holy community” with me this summer.