Sixty years ago the seeds for Congregation Etz Chaim were sowed. A small number of Jewish families in DuPage County got together with the intent of establishing a Jewish synagogue to support them and their families. The core of this new synagogue was this group who wished to have a central place of Jewish worship and community. They had no building. They had no rabbi. They had themselves.
Today we have a synagogue which has been expanded physically in the past 34 years since my wife and I joined. We also have 2-rabbis, a religious school, and a very active, vibrant congregation of approximately 475 families that are active not only within our congregational community but also in the community beyond our walls. This is made possible by the same spirit of dedication and volunteerism that established the congregation 60 years ago. Alexis de Tocqueville recognized this spirit of volunteerism and the forming of ‘associations’ to work towards a common goal when he visited the United States in 1831. This spirit continues today in American life and at our congregation. That picture in the upper left hand corner of a good looking yellow lab and me was taken several years ago. Samson and Zipporah were emotional therapy dogs. We visited schools, patients in hospitals and those receiving chemotherapy, as well as hospice patients. It was one of my volunteer activities. I know from the people I interact with at our synagogue that people are involved in any number of service activities in our community.
Congregation Etz Chaim is more than the building and rabbis. It is also a community that is to a large extent shaped and run by the members who serve on the various committees, such as Facilities, Religious School, Budget & Finance, Social Action, Ways & Means, and Lifelong Learning. While our professional staff performs key functions and provides essential services to insure smooth day-to-day operations, it is our member volunteers who make Etz Chaim the energetic, vibrant, dynamic community that it is. The core values of our community are expressed through those members. Consider participating this coming year in an area of interest to you.
While the High Holidays are three months away, this is the time of year that we are asked to renew our commitment to our synagogue. Each of us has chosen to be members of our Etz Chaim community. We have our own individual reasons for doing this. What we do have in common, if only subconsciously, is the recognition of the importance of maintaining a Jewish community and presence for ourselves, our family, and for future generations. Our individual commitments in money and time support the collective works of our synagogue. It is about supporting this community that gives each of us the space and means to live our values and to support this community that we have chosen in order to do our part in preserving Jewish life in our nation.