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Welcome to Sha’ar

"My success as a rabbi isn't going to be measured by how many people I inspire to live my Jewish life, but by how many people I can inspire to live their own authentic Jewish life."

Rabbi Adina Lewittes

Shabbat Shalom 

Hevre/Friends,

What an extraordinary year we’ve had at Sha’ar. Sadly, we’re writing to share that it was also our final year.

We hope you all feel as proud as we do about the breadth and depth of what we were able to contribute to the Jewish community - in the US, Canada, and around the world - during the pandemic. In a time of fear, isolation and loss, Sha’ar offered connection, meaning, and purpose. GroundWaves, the Justice Beit Midrash, unique climate-oriented events, intimate study groups, virtual travel, the Morning Walk Minyan, spirited prayer services (especially High Holy Days!) and so much more filled our days and nights, but more so our hearts and souls.

The world around us is now changing again. Thankfully, the pandemic is receding and most people around us are vaccinated. Warmer weather coupled with newfound freedom to be with friends and family beckons people to rethink how they’re spending their time. Opportunities to engage in activities and interests unavailable throughout the pandemic are now filling people’s nights and weekends, including the ability to return to synagogue sanctuaries. A new normal is arriving.

Along with those yearned-for changes come others, some less welcome but real nonetheless. Many Jewish communities, including Sha’ar, are experiencing reduced engagement. The financial strain of a year during which expenses remained constant (and some significantly increased) while all programming was offered free of charge - as it was everywhere - is now being faced. The 2020 Pew study confirms that the vast and still-growing majority of Jews are seeking their Jewish experiences outside the confines of formal Jewish communities. 

The capacity for different communities to weather these trends varies, of course. For Sha’ar, a small enterprise with grand vision, these changes are proving to be decisive. Unfortunately, despite great efforts, genuine intentions and many attempts to reimagine the possibilities, the financial and administrative runway to keep developing our unique platform simply isn’t there. We come to this conclusion with great sadness. We had hoped to be building towards a robust future. It simply is not possible given the limitations we face. 

At the same time, we come to this moment with deep gratitude for all we’ve been able to accomplish together. We are grateful for the partnership and support of our Va’ad, for the generosity of all our donors who made the last year possible, for the extraordinary contributions of Joshua Ehrlich and Lisa Kasdan to our services, for the talent of our GroundWaves musician Dan Nadel, and for the efforts of our administrator Jason Levy. We are grateful for the presence and participation of all of you.

Unless you request otherwise by email, I (Dini) will make sure you’re aware of where I will be teaching and speaking in the future. It is my intention to keep developing opportunities to share deep study, written reflections, exciting travel and creative spiritual  experiences. The relationships we’ve built together are very precious to me and I hope they will only grow throughout the next chapters that will unfold. Please direct all communication with me to adinalewittes@gmail.com

The possibility of holding High Holy Day services this September in New Jersey is currently being explored by a team led by Lisa Kasdan. For information, please reach out to ljkasdan@gmail.com

While the rest of Sha’ar’s programming will now be suspended, we hope the inspiration it sparked will continue to illuminate your Jewish lives and a path to deep and meaningful alignment with the world around us and with the planet. At this dramatic moment, we focus not just on our own communal loss, but on the holy work of justice and building a world of love, an olam hessed, that continues to need us.

To that end, we close Sha’ar with our version of the iconic Jewish prayer, Oseh Shalom. May the One that always unites us in heaven and on earth bring a loving and lasting peace to our people, to all people, and to all of Life upon our precious planet.

With love and blessings,
Shabbat Shalom,

Adina Lewittes, Rabbi
Debbie Lerner, President

Mon, September 27 2021 21 Tishrei 5782