There’s a famous concept called the butterfly effect, which says that the seemingly small or trivial actions we take now can spread in larger and larger ways, eventually leading to a significant event in the future.
The Talmud is also familiar with this concept. In a famous midrash, Honi HaMe’agel meets an old man who is planting a carob tree. He asks the man when the tree will produce fruit, and, when told it will take 70 years, Honi scoffs. “Are you certain you’ll live to see the fruit?” he asks. “I’m not planting for myself,” the man answers. “I am grateful for those who planted trees for me, and I want to do the same for those who come after me.”
Every action we take, every decision we make, matters. It’s not enough to help ourselves: We also have a responsibility to those who come after us.
When BJ was founded in 1825, some of the precepts the congregation followed were ahead of their time, striving for more equality and openness for the sake of growth. Today, we follow in the footsteps of all those who preceded us from the early 19th century on—who always had an eye toward the future.
BJ is not simply a synagogue—it’s a living, breathing, evolving community. So today, to continue to nourish those around us, we are embracing this notion of progression by building a solid foundation that both serves our current community’s needs and provides for future generations.
Our third-century vision will extend our community outward, creating fewer entry barriers for Jews from all different walks of life, for non-Jewish members of families who sit in our Sanctuary, and for other groups of diverse race, religion, class, or immigration status who may need protection. We dream of being a community that is a microcosm of the greater world we hope for.
This year will be a year of grand experimentation to that end, as we reimagine how to open our doors even wider while remaining true to the core focus we care deeply about—music, prayer, and spirituality; community; and social justice.
As part of this refresh, we are excited for our community to get to know the new members of our team, who will help us build this new iteration of BJ. We welcome our wonderful new—or newly full-time—staff members, and look forward to collaborating with and learning from them: Sinead Carucci, Rabbi Deena Cowans, Anina Dassa, Michael Harlow, Robert Jameson, Rabbi Sammy Kanter, Calle Schueler, and Kai Segall. You can “meet” some of our new staff in this issue of Kol Hadash (you’ll “meet” the rest in a future issue), and we hope you’re as excited as we are to get to know them and see their vision unfold!
As we approach our bicentennial and look toward BJ’s third century, we are reminded that, as we learn from our Sages, we must build a foundation that not only supports others but also lifts them up. Let us look to those who will come after us, and make sure that every deed counts.