Wednesday, March 09, 2011

“Going to the Mishkan (in Hoboken) and We’re Gonna Get Married”

Jon Adam Ross, Founding Company Member
Storahtelling Maven Torah Reading Ritual
United Synagogue of Hoboken, Hoboken, New Jersey

I have spent many a Shabbat in synagogues around the country as a member of Storahtelling.  But never have I had the privilege of ‘mavening’ in such a special space as the newly restored sanctuary of the United Synagogue of Hoboken.  Just recently, USH restored its sanctuary to its original early 20th century grandeur, and it truly is a grand, holy space – much of it corresponding to the specifications laid out in the Torah’s instructions for the building of the mishkan – our traveling sanctuary in the desert.  Last Shabbat, Annie Lewis and I did a maven weekend at the United Synagogue of Hoboken for Parshat Vayakhel.  Annie, Alex Wolfson, and I created a brand new maven script for USH, in part to make the most of the resonance of the congregation’s recent experience in creating sacred space, and in part to highlight Annie’s special relationship with the congregation.  Annie, in addition to being a world-class Maven is also a rabbinical student at the Jewish Theological Seminary and serves as the rabbinic intern at USH!

Friday night the stage was set with a really lovely and uniquely intimate Kabbalat Shabbat followed by a boisterous and delicious Shabbat dinner at the home of Rabbi Robert Scheinberg which included his generous family and 30 congregants who take part in a weekly “Intro to Judaism” class.  Shabbat morning we were lucky to have the skilled Torah reading skills of both Rabbi Scheinberg and Andrew Merwin – an enthusiastic congregant who was joined by nearly two dozen congregants who remained in the afternoon for a “Meet the Maven” text study and conversation which only ended because it was time for Mincha!  As for the Maven itself, we explored the role of Betzalel, the chief designer, pairing his character with an Israelite bride, played by Annie, who was hoping to use the Mishkan for the location for her wedding.  Annie’s character got wrapped up in God’s ‘registry’ of gold and fabrics and fancy gifts for the mishkan, forgetting the other important things that fill a space and a wedding with holiness.  In addition to the beautiful space that USH has created for itself, the congregation boasts an undeniable spirit of ruach, generosity and kavannah that fill the holy space with true sanctity.  Betzalel was overwhelmed by all the gifts brought by the Israelites to build the mishkan.  And we were overjoyed at the gift of getting to spend Shabbat in a modern day Mishkan – full of holiness – the United Synagogue of Hoboken.

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