Our Two Sifrei Torahs
The two torot you will see in today’s ceremony serve as representatives of the two founding congregations, Congregation B’nai Tzedek and Congregation Ohav Shalom. It was only after our new name was selected did we come to learn that both synagogues owned a torah with an Etz Chaim mantle. We knew that they had to be placed under the chuppah. Simon Newman (President) and Terry Brodof (Vice President), will carry the sifrei torah and stand in not as themselves, but as symbols of the incoming leadership of the new community. In this way we our honoring our past and our future.
At a traditional Jewish wedding the ceremony begins with the kallah (bride) circling the chatan (groom) seven times. In Judaism, seven is the number that represents completion. The circle, amongst other things, symbolizes the walls of the new home. In today’s ceremony there will be three circles made, one by each torah, signifying the linage of each of our former synagogues and then one circle made by both torot in honor of our future. We chose not to circle the full seven times as we recognize that our work is not yet complete. Today is only the beginning.
Benediction for Congregation Etz Chaim
We invited local Rabbis to partake in this ceremony by performing the Birkat Kohanim, literally “blessing from the Priests,” a blessing that comes from the book of Numbers. It is made up of three shorter blessings: “May the LORD bless you and guard you; May the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious unto you; May the LORD lift up his face onto you and give you peace.” It was important to us to include local rabbis as this exciting new beginning is not only for our congregation but for the larger Jewish community as well. We are so honored that we can share our simcha with you.
Breaking the Glass
Lastly, the chatan will step on a glass to break it. One reason this is done is that even in times of great joy, we cannot forget the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. On this special day, as we create a new synagogue, we choose to hear the shattering of glass as a symbolic representation of breaking down the barriers within our community to fully and lovingly form our new synagogue Congregation Etz Chaim. Alex Cohen, founder of both B’nai Tzedek and now Etz Chaim will be given this honor. After the glass is broken, people will shout “Mazel Tov!” meaning “Congratulations!” or literally, “Good fortune!”
On the 9th day of the month of Nisan in the year 5775, corresponding to March 29, 2015, in Cincinnati, Ohio, Congregation B’nai Tzedek and Congregation Ohav Shalom herein enter into a covenant in accordance with the traditions of Torah and the people Israel.
We approach this ketubah as two communities, but shall leave it joined together as one. With deep gratitude to the Source of Life who has inspired us and given us the values that will bind us together, on this day we become one community to be known henceforth as Congregation Etz Chaim.
Surrounded by family and friends, we affirm our commitment to this union. We are thankful for the gifts of history, traditions, and values that our founding congregations have given us. We promise to honor our ancestors and families, and we will treasure the past that we have inherited by finding creative ways to celebrate it and build on it for the future.
As we dedicate ourselves to community, education, spirituality, innovation and creativity, and participation…
We pledge to each other our mutual trust and respect…
We promise to act with integrity, forgiveness, and compassion as we seek out new challenges and opportunities to grow…
We vow to seek ways to maintain open channels of communication and create safe spaces for sharing thoughts, feelings, and experiences so that we can build our relationship on open communication, honesty, and loyalty…
We pledge to seek partnership and friendship as we embark on a new phase of our Jewish journeys…
We vow to cherish the uniqueness of each of our members, to trust in our values and insights, and to comfort and challenge one another…
We promise to offer support and encouragement for personal growth and the fulfillment of shared dreams, to celebrate the beauty and happiness of life, and to comfort each other in times of sorrow.
We affirm our willingness to share our time, use our talents, and learn new skills for the benefit of our community and its undertakings…
Joining together, we aim to enhance the foundations of our greater community by offering new opportunities to engage in Torah – Jewish learning, to come together for Avodah – Jewish worship and celebration, and to engage in Gemilut Hasadim – acts of loving kindness for tikkun olam – repair of the world.
Together we will create a congregational home filled with laughter, wisdom, generosity, and compassion, a home with open doors for those seeking their Jewish place among the people Israel.
Aware that life is ever changing, we will take a positive approach as we walk joyously into the future.
With our community of family and friends as witness, this marriage is valid and binding.
How We Met:
Congregation B’nai Tzedek (over 50 year old) and Congregation Ohav Shalom (over 133 years old) began talking about “getting married” in May, 2013.
We knew that our chances for a positive outcome were high because of the following:
• Both congregational boards and memberships unanimously approved to begin discussions.
• The team leaders from both congregations held each other in high esteem and developed total trust.
• We focused on the “People” not the “Building.”
• Our combined leadership were motivated to change our respective direction and knew together that we would create synergies that were not possible separately.
• Both congregations were conservative and fully egalitarian.
• We had made a modest attempt to connect several years earlier and knew that our congregants were very compatible.
• We knew that our core values, mission and vision were in alignment.
• Our leadership team after much work and due diligence developed a plan for a new congregation.