When one of my favorite clients asked me to write this speech, I wondered how I would pull it off. After all, I would have to write in the voice and from the heart of a committed Jewish man ñ yet I am a believing Christian woman. It was a stretch -- or was it? I found our common ground and wrote from there. This speech is one of my favorites.
Award recipient is first praised and given a toy Ferrari as a thank-you gesture. Following this brief ceremony, the children of the Hassidim school put on a Hanukkah play re-enacting the story of the lamp that burned for eight days without refilling.
Thank you, Rabbi, for the car. I've always wanted a Ferrari. This might not be exactly what I had in mind, but at least it's the right color, it's low upkeep, and I won't have to add on to my garage. My wife will be grateful that I won't get hurt, unless I step on it on my way to the bathroom in the middle of the night. And best of all, nobody can say I got it to go along with a midlife crisis. Or if I am having a midlife crisis, at least it's a small one.
We're here tonight to see performed a story we all know well. The Hanukkah story. Only the staging and the actors and some aspects of the presentation will be new -- though given the age and experience of the actors, we might see some things that even the director hasn't seen before.
And while it might seem like the same old stuff to us adults, think of how exciting this story is to those for whom it is a new story. Think of how exciting this story is for our children. They're here for the Hanukkah story as part of a long process to learn how to take their places -- to find their roles -- in Judaism. They might be born Jewish, but it takes more than that to know what it means to be Jewish. It takes learning about tradition. Learning about history. Learning about culture. Learning who we are -- and what it means to be the chosen people of God.
That's what this school is all about. It is a light for Judaism in a secular culture. And it is almost as miraculous as the story we'll see re-enacted tonight.
Several years ago, a stranger came into our midst. He didn't look like us. He didn't act like us. He didn't live like we do, and he certainly had a lot more than the usual 2.4 children most of us have. He was Jewish like us, but not exactly Jewish like us. That uncertainty bred distrust. We weren't so sure about (insert name of the Hassidim school's director). We weren't sure at all.
We watched him. We listened. I think, on some level, many of us wanted him to go away. His presence challenged us. But then, we rose to that challenge. We realized that he had something to give us. So we welcomed him into our hearts and our community, and grew stronger because of it. This acceptance of the differences among us is as broad and life-giving as Judaism itself.
This school is an even bigger leap of faith. But aren't great leaps of faith what Judaism has always demanded? Noah was told to build an ark on dry land. Joshua was told to circle Jericho, sounding his horn, and that the wall would come tumbling down. Abraham was told to offer his son, Isaac, as a sacrifice to God. And then, Moses led the people to the shores of the Red Sea, which miraculously parted to let them flee the Egyptians. As Jews, we have learned to embrace the unknown because that is where our path lies.
This school is in its own way a leap of faith and a miracle. That is where our community's path lies. With no regular funding and no larger organization for support, the school has grown four times its original size in only four years. There are now 65 children attending.
Even its location is symbolic. It is not a Chabbad school, but a community school. So it is fitting for it to be in our community center. This school is becoming a resource for the whole city -- a city with a long and rich Jewish heritage.
Because of this school, our children learn about all the worlds that they inhabit: the natural, the political, the cultural and the spiritual. They have the advantage of an outstanding traditional secular curriculum -- and the best Jewish education in the community.
Our children are becoming a light for the community. A light that will burn even brighter in the years ahead.
This school is a leap of faith and a miracle to you parents who have followed your hearts and your best instincts to entrust your children to these kind, learned people. Thank you. Your insight and trust will pay off for your children, for this community and even for the future of Judaism itself.
To those of you who have been generous supporters of both of these hard-working, visionary rabbis, thank you. You have worked as the very hand of God.
Tonight, there is magic in the air. Tonight, we take part in a miracle. History is being made. We play our roles in a very old -- and a very new -- story. Thanks to everyone in this room, the light of Judaism and the light of miracles still burns brightly. Happy Hanukkah to you all.
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