July 2014 - Twenty-one Years in Plandome
I offer some very personal reflections as I anticipate the celebration of our congregation’s twenty-one yearlong residence in Plandome (which will have happened by time you receive this letter).
I first entered 1001 Plandome Road with the congregation’s president, Sam Blumenthal (of blessed memory) in anticipation of High Holiday services in September 1981. Sam saw my wonder as I craned my neck to take in the soaring height of the ceiling, my eyes open wide. It was all the more magnificent given that our ‘sanctuary’ in our Roslyn Heights building still had remnants of the time that the room had served as gymnasium and cafeteria for the Willow Street School. “It’s really beautiful, isn’t it?” Sam asked acknowledging my wonder. “Just don’t get used to it,” he advised. I could not have imaged then that a dozen years later the building would be ours, thanks very much to Sam’s vision and his disregard for process.
So you might think that I would have been eager to move to Plandome once the deal was done. To the contrary, I resisted the move completely. I refused to pack my books or to move a file folder. Though the congregation ‘set up shop’ in Plandome early that summer, I continued to work at 1 Willow Street. Years before the ubiquity of mobile phones, I was completed isolated from the day-to-day workings of the synagogue office. I prepared for the Holidays sitting on a metal folding chair at a bridge table in an empty building without electricity. It was only weeks after the new owners changed the locks that I had come to Plandome. You see, that building, as modest as it was, was inspirited with memories. It was there that I gave my first (not so well received) Friday night address, and taught my first (much better received) seminar. From its bimah, I was welcomed as rabbi of the congregation by my teacher, Ira Eisenstein (z”l), our community’s rabbi emeritus (who, years earlier, had warned our Board about the evils that come from building ownership). Both my children – Sara and Ruthie (then Ruth) had been named in the sanctuary. And then there were the other namings, and b’nai mitzvah, and weddings, and funerals, and meetings (including the one that lifted our cap on membership from just 150 units, which later necessitated our move), and congregational celebrations. I didn’t want to leave the walls that housed those memories.
The inspiriting of our present building began with the first naming and the first bar mitsva early that fall. With all the many ‘firsts,’ Plandome quickly became home to me. Now, twenty-one years later, it is the repository of even more memories than Willow Street where we were in residence for only eighteen years. But more than what has passed, we should celebrate all that we are and are still becoming – a vibrant, progressive, diverse community that is housed in a classic mid-century building that, I hope, will be home for us all for many, many, more years to come.
Wishing you a peaceful summer punctuated with a few happy adventures,