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Ta Shema: December 29, 2023

Many of us just celebrated one of the most anticipated Jewish holidays last week–Yom Chinese Food and Movies. It is the perfect combination of good food and family time without the heavy work of repentance or cleaning a house top to bottom to make it hametz free. The tradition to eat Chinese food on Christmas has a fascinating history and is over 100 years old. Read more here: https://forward.com/culture/437007/why-do-jews-eat-chinese-food-on-christmas/

Yom Chinese Food and Movies is a stark contrast to a much older Jewish celebration on Christmas Eve, know as Nittel Nacht: 

https://jewishjournal.com/judaism/213258/

In summary, for centuries, Ashkenazi Jews forbade the study of Torah on Christmas Eve–stemming from very real fears of living in lands unfriendly to Jews. The only other night of the year that Torah study is forbidden is Tisha B’Av. Nittel Nacht is a non-holiday of isolationism. Yom Chinese Food and Movies is a celebration of relationship and integration.

What I love about the Chinese food tradition is how playful it is. Many articles, like this below, play with the idea of eating Chinese food in the same legalistic manner in which all Jewish laws are derived:

https://jewishlink.news/halachic-guide-to-chinese-food-on-12-25-everything-you-need-to-know-for-this-shabbat/

The basis behind humorous articles like this one is that it shows the intricate ways the Jewish people have become integrated into the greater narrative. How over the last 100 years we have integrated into a society and thrived while maintaining our unique characteristics. How we can be both proudly interfaith friendly and proudly Jewish. 

The culmination of the last 100 years has not only brought us delicious traditions, but it has brought us Amy DeLoach. Her family has been here for the last 100 years in Wilmington, and her journey to presidency very much mirrors the above transition from the isolationism of the last century to full inclusion. 

Amy’s presidency at its core was one about honoring the legacy and rich history of our synagogue while gently giving it a tune up. She first started with our cemetery. Our cemetery has been given a much needed makeover in two ways–it has been beautified, as well as been opened up ritually to include our interfaith families in the new Memorial Park. Our Jewish members with interfaith families now have the option to be interred next to each other, which would not have been thinkable 100 years ago in a Jewish cemetery. 

It was fate that during her presidency we celebrated two major milestones–the Celebration-Installation-Dedication weekend and our 125th Anniversary weekend. Both had similar themes of being grateful for all of the blood, sweat, and tears that went in to help us reach this point while also recognizing that the wonderful things we have now are a natural continuation of the past. 

Finally, in Amy we had the gift of having a president with a beautiful interfaith family. Thank you to First Gentleman Mark DeLoach for lending us your wife for more hours in the day than you probably saw her! When families were looking for a welcoming synagogue, especially those from Conservative backgrounds who had been turned away in the past, got on the phone with Amy, they would know they would be family here. In Amy, we had a president who was deeply integrated into all that Wilmington had to offer, and everyone in town knows she is fiercely proud to be Jewish. She lives by example that you can be both proudly interfaith and proudly Jewish. Thanks to Amy, generations of congregants with interfaith families won’t have to make impossible choices–to affiliate with a synagogue or not, to be buried together or not. As the Open Doors Project has shown us time and time again, being more inclusive only can serve to make a warmer and more vibrant synagogue for all. 

Amy, thank you for everything. It has truly been a pleasure to walk alongside you and make this synagogue a home for all. At the same time, I am excited for what the future will bring, knowing we will be in excellent hands with Pam Sender.

May it be another year of continuing our legacy of growing into our greatest potential, L’Dor Va’Dor. And hey, it wouldn’t hurt to order some New Year's Eve Chinese Food as well.

 

Happy 2024, Y’all! 

Rabbi Chaya Bender

Tue, June 18 2024 12 Sivan 5784