Intrigued by the concept of exploring the community’s Jewish future, Rear Adm. Janet Donovan and her husband Dan chose to attend the Tidewater Together discussion held on March 21 during the Friday night Shabbat service at Ohef Sholom Temple.
More than 300 people attended the service. It featured Tidewater Together’s Scholar-in-Residence, Rabbi Brad Artson, discussing the topic: Why be Jewish? What’s in it for me?
“The concept of Tidewater Together—of the community joining together, and these discussions being about the community—was very well reflected during the service,” says Janet Donovan.
“What really struck me, what made it feel very much about community, was when we sang. People would sing in their different tradition, so you knew they belonged to other synagogues or came from different backgrounds, but it didn’t matter—and that meant a lot to me.”
The Donovans enjoyed Rabbi Artson’s presentation so much, that—like many other “repeat” Tidewater Together attendees— they chose to attend another event as well. They joined more than 120 community members the next night at Congregation Beth Chaverim to hear Rabbi Artson’s take on God and the Big Bang.
“He’s such an engaging speaker,” says Donovan. “We were glad to have the chance to hear him again.”
Tidewater Together was a collaborative weekend presented by the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater, the Synagogue- Federation partnership of the Tidewater Jewish Community, and the Milton “Mickey” Kramer Scholar-in-Residence Fund.
Held March 20–23, Tidewater Together included diverse discussions at six different locations, and was free and open to everyone in the Jewish community. Audience attendance for the weekend’s events totaled about 1,000.
“There were people in the community who had heard Rabbi Artson before, so they knew what a compelling and inspirational speaker he is,” says Alex Pomerantz, UJFT development specialist and Tidewater Together coordinator.
“He proved to be that, and so much more for this inaugural Tidewater Together weekend,” Pomerantz says. “Days and weeks later, we’re still hearing from people about how terrific the weekend was. I think it’s inspired us all to continue these discussions, to plan more events like this, and to keep working together in the best interests of our community’s future.” Rabbi Artson applauded the vision for Tidewater Together, its organizers, and the participation of so many in the community.
“It is astonishing to me that this little, tiny Jewish community dreams as big as it does,” Artson says. “To watch the way, for example, that you bring in a scholar from one of the major metropolitan centers and you spend four days of intensive learning and conversation and dialogue, that crosses every institutional boundary in the community is unparalleled. I know of two other communities in North America that do something similar, but nothing like this.
“Your creativity and your strength as a community, inspires and strengthens others,” says Artson. “I really want to congratulate you. I think it’s a remarkable achievement.”
To see and hear more of Rabbi Artson’s comments, visit JewishVa.org/tidewatertogetherextraordinary.
by Laine Mednick Rutherford