President’s Message


TBI Presidents Message April 2017

Traditions and Rules -

Looking at Judaism from the perspective of a convert can be confusing, as it has been for myself and many others.  Prior to my conversion, I understood the Christian world where there are Baptists, Catholics, Protestants and many other divisions.  While similar in beliefs, they are defined by differences in practices, customs and traditions.  Before I stepped into the Mikveh, I thought the Jewish community was one of cohesive observance, knowing very little of the different movements or the spectrum of traditions within each. 

Even now, after 12 years of practicing Judaism, I’m still confused by the differences in the Jewish world.  Just recently I stumbled on a thought: Are we led more by tradition or by rules, or do both converge into one?

It will take much more time and discussion for me to find an answer to this question.   All over the world, Jews live among Orthodox, Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist disciplines as well as those thought of as Traditional or Liberal.  Within each group, some keep kosher, some do not, and others fall in the middle.  There are those who completely shun the use of modern conveniences on the Sabbath; others reject the inconvenience of giving up modern technology for even a few hours.  In many other aspects of our lives, individuals might be at opposite ends of the spectrum of observance.  However, when asked who we are, it seems that we respond in harmony that we are Jews. We ignore our differences and celebrate our similarities. 

So, where am I heading with all this?  From my vantage point, when it comes to Judaic observance, TBI has all of these different elements within its own membership.  There are those who hold TBI’s founding values close to their hearts, those who bring practices derived from family values and upbringing, and even some as myself who do not fully understand the reasoning and roots of many of our practices.   With this diversity in our congregation, we may find that traditions and rules can start to become questioned, overlapped, strained or even forgotten. We need to recognize these differences, so that TBI continues to welcome all and so that we “go from strength to strength” (Psalm 84).

For me the answer is summarized with one word – Respect.  Regardless of how we have been taught, all of us must respect what is established at TBI as well as the beliefs of the person next to us.  We need to be one harmonious community and follow the traditions and rules as they are today and as they may be in the future.  We will continue to evolve since change is a fact of life.  But for now, I ask that as we enter our synagogue, our shul, respect who we are, what we are and what we can be.

Steve Pagano