I would like to take this opportunity to publicly express my thanks for the warm hospitality extended to our African Jewish Congress delegation and for all the effort your Rosh Kehillah, Dr Vera Somen and her executive have put into ensuring that this centenary weekend will be the success it is.
Rabbotai. What was the first commandment given to a Jew? To make Aliya to Israel.
The question asked is why could Avraham Avinu not stay in Ur Kasdim and promote monotheism from there? Since he had not been burnt in Nimrod’s furnace, no one would have dared to make trouble for him!
The answer given is that G-d wanted him to set up an ethical monotheistic state in the Land of Israel that would become a light unto the nations. A state that would be run according to the laws of the Torah and from which the whole world would learn how to behave, meaning to become an OHR LAGOYIM – a light unto the nations. This is our obligation, this is our responsibility.
My dear friends. This congregation and its members have fulfilled this obligation and have always stood proudly among the congregations of the world as heirs and teachers of the great heritage of Judaism, handed down to us by our ancestors.
For nearly 100 years both the former synagogue and this one invited all Jews to enter its portals, there to be inspired by a tranquil and transcendent beauty. But more than that, it invites us to prayer and reflection, to moral duty and ethical mandate. It summons us to reaffirm the faith of our ancestors, to renew the covenant of Israel.
In celebrating your 100th anniversary, we are more than ever aware that it is a link in the chain of Jewish tradition that spans continents and countries. Frequently we look back to our ancestors of old, who believed in an invisible God -- in a world where most people could only accept the visible and the tangible.
Now, after 10 decades, we rededicate your community, to that same invisible Being, giving eloquent testimony to our confident belief that some day, in concert with all those who labour for justice, truth, and peace, we shall realize a victory of the spirit.
Once there was a good man who wanted to do good. One day he noticed the miserable living conditions in which a certain poor carpenter lived. The rich man called the carpenter in and commissioned him to build a beautiful house. "I want this to be an ideal cottage. Use only the best materials, employ only the best workmen, and spare no expense." He said that he was going on a journey and that he hoped the house would be finished when he returned.
The carpenter saw this as a great opportunity. Therefore, he skimped on materials, he hired inferior workers at low wages and covered mistakes with paint, and he cut corners wherever he could.
When the rich man returned, the carpenter brought him the key and said: "I have followed your instructions and built your house as you told me to." "I'm glad," said the rich man; and handing the key back to the builder, he continued, “here are the keys. They are yours. I had you build this house for yourself. You and your family are to have it as my gift."
In the years that followed, the carpenter never ceased to regret the way in which he had cheated himself. "Had I known,” he would say to himself, “that I was building this house for myself . . ."
My dear friends, there are some people who when called upon to help build the future try to avoid the cost of consecrated effort and do not give their best. They fail to understand that they are building for themselves and for their children.
But, you understood otherwise. On this anniversary your past, your present and your future seem to live with extraordinary vitality and radiance.
We re-validate our belief in the sublime proverb expressed by the prophet Zechariah, "Not by might and not by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts."
To this eternal truth do we rededicate this synagogue. We should make of your synagogue not a refuge from the anxieties of the world, but a renewed source of strength for waging the struggle for justice, freedom and peace. To this end we rededicate this synagogue. To this task do we rededicate ourselves.
Invisibly embedded in your synagogue is a firm unweakening hope for the future. Your forebears founded and organized a congregation, not for themselves alone, but for those who would follow. On this special day, we rededicate your community, not simply in the faith that there will be a future, but also in the conviction that the future will be congenial to the ideals and values cherished by your predecessors and by you.
You are born of a great ancestry whose bequest enduringly lives on within you.
Let us strengthen the hands and hearts, which have been and are extended for 10 decades with loyalty, devotion and love to re-secure this congregation as a spiritual home for all. Let us dream of those who will succeed you whose lives "will shine as the brightness of the firmament’’ because the religious imperatives of their existence will stem from this synagogue.
In the presence of those gathered here today before the Lord our God we rededicate this synagogue and your community. We rededicate it, as did your predecessors to the Worship of God and the Service of Humankind.
We utter thanksgiving to God,
Baruch – Shehecheyanu Vekiyemanu Vehigiyanu Lazman Hazeh.
AD MEAH VEESRIM.