Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Global Warming in the Jewish Soul

Highlights: Despite the extreme cold outside, literally and spiritually, in the Jewish community of Chernigov, souls are being lit, one by one, and the warmth is spreading. Can we ever know all the inspiring and lasting results of 8 days packed with day after day of excitement?

Chernigov, Ukraine - - The streets of Chernigov are covered with a foot of snow, which, by all appearances, is here to stay, at least for the duration of the extra long winter. Each new snowfall just adds another layer of snow, or sometimes ice, to the already frozen ground.

Global warming is nowhere in evidence.

Within the Jewish community, though, and more specifically, in the hearts of the Jewish people of Chernigov, the ice is thawing as the global impact of the fiery Chanukah lights warms even the most frozen souls.

Chanukah began with the Jewish women gathering for an evening of pure Chanukah fun. Interspersed throughout the program was games, stories, laughter, and, of course, a menorah lighting.

Warming effect: Natasha was so inspired, every night of Chanukah she held a Menorah lighting at home, giving Chanukah gelt and treats to the children afterward. Even her 17 year old son wanted to join in with child-like enthusiasm.

On the 5th night of Chanukah, the synagogue was transformed into CafĂ© Jerusalem as the men celebrated the Rabbi’s birthday. They enjoyed a beautiful meal and fascinating program, but the highlight of the event was the positive resolutions the guests took on in lieu of a physical birthday gift. A raffle was then drawn, giving a gift back to someone who decided to do an extra mitzvah. The energy in the room was palpable as Sasha won a beautiful Menorah. Looking at his face, it was clear that Sasha felt he’d won the lottery. His Menorah, he explained, was proof that G-d loves him, imperfections and all.

Warming effect: The next Shabbos, 10 new members joined the synagogue, and they are now shlepping their friends in one by one.

The youth group, comprised of college students and young professionals, had a blast at a fun Chanukah party, decorating doughnuts, playing a Jewish version of “Who wants to be a millionaire?, and mostly just celebrating Judaism in the company of other young Jews.

Warming effect: This past Shabbos, in the wake of the Chanukah party, Jewish students joined us for a Friday night dinner, reveling in the holiness of Shabbos, and this has evolved into the monthly place to be.

As Chanukah ended and the menorahs began to be packed away, the preschool children put on an adorable performance. They proudly sang and danced to Chanukah songs, lit the Menorah, and told over the story of Chanukah, to their parents’ delight. The children wrapped up a beautiful program – and the next day began to practice for their next performance. Upon requests from the parents, the next performance is already scheduled for tu b’shvat.

Warming effect: A new family came to visit and watch, and enjoyed themselves immensely. Now Darina is enrolled in preschool, and, G-d willing, her 18 month old brother is not far behind. . .

The snowball effect is really gaining momentum!