For some, their Bar or Bat mitzvah may be the end of their formal Jewish education. Not in my house. From a very early age, probably before my bat mitzvah, I knew that my parents expected me to continue in religious school through 10th grade confirmation and our Rabbi continually reinforced the idea that learning was a lifetime activity. As was customary at the time, confirmation was a ceremony held on Shavuot, in which we confirmed our acceptance of the Torah. Once the service was over and we had celebrated with our friends and families, many of us stayed on to participate in our temple’s tikkun leil Shavuot – a long night in which we studied the Torah with our rabbi. Off and on since then, I’ve had the opportunity to come together with various communities and explore one of Shavuot’s most important themes, the promise our ancestors made to accept the Torah and share its lessons from generation to generation. So, when I was approached to develop a Jewish learning program for Shavuot it was only natural that my mind returned to all those nights spent studying the Torah. Of course, it also helped that I knew the Jewish Federation had hosted a similar Shavuot program last year, and that it was extremely successful.
As we read in the Torah, it wasn’t just Moses or the high priests who stood at Mt. Sinai, but the entire Israelite community. So, it’s really quite fitting that Into the Night: A Shavuot Experience should bring together our Orlando Jewish community. In preparing for this event, I’ve had the pleasure of working with Rabbis, cantors, and educators from across the spectrum of Jewish beliefs and practice. On Sunday, May 16, our leaders will take time to share music, worship, and learning not just with their own synagogue communities but with the larger Orlando Jewish community.
The great thing about Into the Night: A Shavuot Experience is that it’s not just for adults. Just like the Torah was a gift to the whole community and future generations, this celebration is for adults and children. Yes, there will be a Shavuot service. Yes, there will be Torah study. But there will also be a chance for kids and their parents to follow the tradition of eating dairy on Shavuot by learning how to make ice cream in a plastic bag! And if you’re up to something a little more challenging, join our Executive Director, Keith Dvorchik, as he bakes his famous cheesecake. There will also be the opportunity to meditate on the meaning of the holiday and how we can use this time of year to heal ourselves and become more whole.
As I think back to the Shavuot celebrations of my youth, I also look forward to spending this Shavuot with you, my Orlando Jewish community. Don’t miss out, come for one or two activities or stay for the whole night. I hope I’ll see you online on Sunday, May 16, from 7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.