Dear Family and Friends:
Christmas is a special time for everyone, even us non-Christian, Jewish types. I like most things about Christmas except for the Capra, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Jimmy Stewart, bells ringing for Clarence the angel stuff. This Christmas was the best of all.
Juca and I joined about twenty other members of our synagogue, Beth Shalom in serving a Christmas dinner at the Shalom Center. The Shalom Center is a non-denominational, non-religious (started by the Methodist church here in Bloomington. They liked the meaning of the word Shalom, so they used it) daytime homeless shelter. Juca and I have worked off and on in their kitchen for the past two years. Our synagogue, as it has for many years, took over the entire food operation of the Center for the Christmas meal. In addition to those who came to work, others prepared food at home and dropped it off. You should have seen the turkeys, trays of stuffing, green bean casseroles, mashed potatoes, bowls of gravy, even a couple hams. The two hundred or so people who showed up for the dinner had a great one. Best of all, those who came to work really worked. Our fellow congregants sliced and served and cleaned and interacted with all of the guests.
As you might have guessed I was on the cleanup crew. I ran the Hobart dishwasher most of the day while Rabbi Brian scrubbed pots at the next sink. I guess you could call that Jewish holy water. We cleaned up a storm.
But the real best of the best happened throughout the meal in the lobby of the Center. That’s where the Newmans, husband and wife, accordion and piano player, set up their instruments. The Newmans are in their 80’s. They are a wonderful couple who play music all over town, usually standards and Broadway tunes. This day it was all Christmas music (they did manage to slip a “Sunrise, Sunset” into one of their sets). Joining the Newmans were a violinist and one of the opera professors from IU’s Jacobs School of Music. You should have heard the music. Traditional Christmas carols to Jingle Bells, it was beautiful. I wandered out there at one point to see what was what. There they were playing beautifully and the lobby, filled with folks who had finished dinner singing with them. It really reminded me of a Frank Capra film. Like Curly would have said, “My goose bumps got goose bumps.” What I think of as the spirit of Christmas certainly hovered over the Shalom Center last Wednesday.
And now we are into a new year, 2014. That’s 7 + 7 + (7-1) = 20, and 7 + 7=14. Good thing I don’t live in Las Vegas. Here’s hoping it’s a year filled with health and happiness for all. No war, no poverty, no more need for a Shalom Center. “Halavai,” it should only be so.