This is my Yom Kippur 2017 message to the Vilna Shul congregation.

I’m supposed to ask you for money and tell you why the Vilna Shul is important to me and my family.

My family is proud to join Larry Green, the Greenfield Family, the Korn family, Dr. Dan Bley and Margi Gad as sponsors of these High Holidays. We hope you will decide to join us in investing your money and your time in helping to continue the Vilna Shul’s revitalization.

There used to be 50 so-called “immigrant shuls” in the Boston area. The Vilna is the last one that remains.

Two of my grandparents came from Vilna. Most of our grandparents were immigrants. It’s interesting to think about our grandparents when we reflect on a term like, “extreme vetting.”

Our son, Shane, was bar mitzvahed on this bema 10 years ago. It was the first bar mitzvah at the Vilna Shul after decades when there were none. But, what is so special to me about this place is not a walk down memory lane, it’s about its potential as a center of Jewish community.

Thanks to an incredibly dedicated staff, and the committed young leaders of Havurah on the Hill, there is now so much more than the unique energy of the past. The Vilna is now infused with the vibrant promise of the future. A promise of Jewish community.

The Dalai Lama very often uses the experience of our people to give comfort and strength to his own people as they struggle in their diaspora. As the rabbi mentioned yesterday, for 2,000 years we were essentially homeless but somehow, we perpetuated our traditions, our religion and our very essence as a people. A testament to the power of our Jewish community.

Our Jewishness is nourished as we pray today, but our Jewish tradition reminds us that while prayer matters, it’s what you actually do that matters so much more.

The chosen people doesn’t mean chosen like lucky. It means chosen as in special responsibility. The responsibility of tikkun olam. Our collective job description as Jews is to make the world a better place. To take our prayers and our sense of community into our daily lives and into the world at large. Personally, I feel most Jewish when I’m helping people and when I am sitting within these peeling walls.

We all have what may be a once in a lifetime opportunity to share our resources, our passion and our vision, to help this special place to fulfill its potential as an engine for Jewish tradition, Jewish thought and Jewish action.

Thank you to all of those who came before us in establishing this shul and its one of a kind energy. We promise not to waste a precious drop.

Please take an envelope as you leave downstairs and send a check. All great journeys begin with a small first step. Besides, it would also make our grandparents smile.

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