May the door to this synagogue be wide enough
to receive all who hunger for love, all who are  lonely for fellowship.

May it welcome all who have cares to unburden,
thanks to express, hopes to nurture.

May the door of this synagogue be narrow enough
to shut out pettiness and pride, envy and enmity.

May its threshold be no stumbling block
to young or straying feet.

May it be too high to admit complacency, 
selfishness and harshness.

May this synagogue be, for all who enter,
the doorway to a richer and more meaningful life.

Mishkan T’Filah,  p.124
 
 
In 2001, a little more than 10 years ago, we opened the new wing to our building and added much needed space. In the years since, we’ve grown in to it! Now there are times where groups have difficulty finding space anywhere in the building for their activities. Irritating, when that happens, but a great problem to have, nonetheless. Oak Park Temple is bursting with activity. We are not simply aspiring to be a vibrant Jewish community; we are a vibrant Jewish community.
 
2011 was an exciting year at Oak Park Temple. We have seen growing attendance at our worship activities on Friday evenings, Saturday and Sunday mornings. Our new worship initiatives have been well received: Shabbat Kehillah Services, with music by Tsimmis, on 2nd Fridays and Kabbalat Shabbats on 4th Fridays with Cantor Green accompanied by guitarist, Aaron Bernstein. On Sunday mornings, the Rotunda is abuzz with activity and people and our community hall has been full to over flowing for events including honoring James Crowder, the OPTY Spaghetti Dinner and Dessert Auction, as well as our recent Chanukah Menorah Lighting service. 
 
This past year, as a community, we celebrated births, mourned deaths and illnesses, rejoiced in recoveries, and supported one another in public and private ways. Members of Ozerim provided support and solace to many. We welcomed newcomers and said farewell to others.

Tsimmis, Koleinu, Kolot, Zimrei Ha’am, Mameloshn,the High Holiday choir, Cantor Green, the congregation … the “halls” were alive with the sounds of music!

In 2011, in no particular order, Oak Park Temple found itself energized, informed and sustained by:
 
A wild Purim Party celebrating Cantor Julie Green’s Bat Mitzvah Year at OPT

We held a joyous Torah Restoration celebration 

OPT’s Annual Congregational Retreat was held again at Olin Sang Ruby Union Institute (OSRUI) in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin  

Rabbi Weiss led a Congregational Tour of the Jewish Deep South

A delegation of eight of us went to the Union for Reform Judaism Biennial in Washington, D.C. where we heard the new President of URJ, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, present a vision for Reform Judaism going forward and we were addressed as a movement, for the first time in history, by the President of the United States

Jewish FAQ were answered by Rabbi Emeritus Gerson

We had regular Adult Education and study sessions with Rabbi Weiss

Ongoing Torah Study groups met weekly 

Social Action activities occurred, providing support to those in need and disseminating important information to the community

We continued to deliver shelter, one night a week through the P.A.D.S. program

An Urban Garden was created and nurtured by our Green Chaverim

Sisterhood ran another successful Annual Rummage Sale that raised funds to assist in the many activities through which they support our congregation

Bagel Boys
continued to provide sustenance for our bodies in the form of bagels and schmeers

The Annual Hausman Brunch informed us

We began planning for a renovation of our Harlem entrance, the doors desperately needing replacement

We approved projects for the maintenance of our building, particularly masonry and windows

We began planning future capital needs of our congregation

We began the work of preparing for our biennial Auction, to be held on February 4th that will benefit Oak Park Temple and the Glasser Preschool

We’ve begun planning for the 150th Anniversary of our congregation in 2014

We heard from notable speakers: 
 
    JeremyBen-Ami, Founder of J-Street

    Rabbi Jonathan Greenberg, Midwest Director of AIPAC

    Authors Alex Kotlowitz, Anita Diamant and our “own” David Sokol and David Ansell

    Alex Ciselsky, a founder of Kibbutz Lotan and The Center for Creative Ecology

    Debra Shore, a Commissioner on the Board of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago who discussed threats to our precious water supply 

    Congregant Daniel Block addressed disparities in access to food in local urban settings 

    Rebetzen Emeritus Carol Gerson discussed fascinating challenges in Bioethics 

We hosted  Echad al Echad, 12 Israeli visitors from our sister congregation in Kiryat Tivon

Cantor Green led another congregational trip to Israel

We wrestled as a community with the difficult issues of achieving peace in the Middle East through the “Israel
–Can We Talk About It?”
series, with speakers from: AIPAC, the IsraeliConsulate, J-Street 

We played at an OPT Summer Shindig Picnic hosted by the Membership Committee

We held a Social Action Day  

We hosted the regional NFTY Retreat 

There were regular Chevre Hiddur Mitzvah Arts group activities

Mel’s Movie Matinees entertained and informed us with films relevant to Jewish life 

We celebrated Shabbat outdoors with our Nature Shabbat

…  I’m sure that this list is incomplete. There is so much!

Prayer, study, music, social action and community… Reform Judaism is alive and well at Oak Park Temple B’nai Abraham Zion, but let’s not be complacent. Together, let’s maintain, support and enrich our Jewish community going forward. 
 
L’shalom,

Jeff Blaine


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