Temple Shalom is a full-service congregation, here to serve as the ritual “stage” and setting for all the seasons of our Jewish lives. Our clergy and trained congregants work with our community to make these moments of transition and celebration resonate with joy, purpose and meaning.
Forming a Family
Kiddushin is the Hebrew word for “marriage.” It comes from the same root as kodesh, which means “holy.” Both words contain within them the implication of “sacred” as “set aside, unique, unlike anything else.” The bond we form with a life-partner is meant to be just that – the most sacred, the most special, the most exclusive and unique relationship in our lives.
At Temple Shalom we celebrate the formation of Jewish families through the traditions of our people. We know that Jewish families today come in many different forms, and couples looking ahead to a wedding ceremony should speak directly with one of our clergy. We welcome same-sex couples as families in every aspect of the life of our congregation.
Welcoming Words For All Kinds of Families
We celebrate the arrival of the youngest members of our community with the traditions of b’rit milah (circumcision and naming of baby boys, usually on the eighth day after birth and often in the home), simchat bat (the relatively new celebration of the birth of a daughter, either in a home or at the synagogue), naming rituals and adoption ceremonies.
We will work with you to make these moments as meaningful as possible: finding a mohel (the one who performs the circumcision), crafting the Jewish ceremony that suits your families needs, balancing the needs of interfaith families, adoptive parents, same-sex couples or other circumstances with the rituals and customs of our Jewish tradition.
The Honey on the Page
Our tradition tells us that at the commencement of religious learning, as a young child began his or her formal education in Jewish texts, a swab of honey was placed on the pages of a book, and a “taste” given to the student – so that the study of Torah would ever be “sweet” in our mouths, and our minds.
At Temple Shalom we welcome our youngest Religious School students into the “study of Torah” with a ceremony of Consecration – a celebration of learning and the presentation of miniature Torah scrolls that often is linked with the holiday of Simchat Torah (the occasion on which the last words of Deuteronomy and the first words of Genesis are read on the same night, on which an unrolled Torah surrounds and embraces the congregation, and on which we dance with the scrolls.) We enter into our study of sacred texts with joy, celebration and love.
Teachers of Torah, Leaders of Prayer
“We come together this Shabbat to celebrate a special moment in the life of our congregation.” These words, part of the blessing we recite over our young people on the occasion of a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, include within them the joy and pride of a current accomplishment – and the promise of future commitment.
Our B’nai Mitzvah (plural of Bar/Bat Mitzvah) see themselves as part of a chain of tradition – and see this day not as an end, but the beginning of a new level of Jewish life. They serve, indeed, as “teachers of Torah” and “leaders of prayer”: taking a large role in leading the liturgy of the service, as well as delving into both the history of an ancient text, and its application in our lives today.
Friends from all backgrounds are welcomed and embraced: often we invite all the friends of the Bar/Mitzvah to stand behind the young person as he or she completes the reading of the Torah, and invite questions from those who may never have seen a Torah scroll up close, or perhaps never been at a Jewish service before.
The Power of a Promise
All the B’Nai Mitzvah families at our congregation promise to continue their Jewish education through at least the end of Tenth Grade. The power of this pledge has led to a Confirmation program of depth, meaning and quality.
Those who have gone through Confirmation at Temple Shalom speak for years – even decades – afterwards of what that year, and its culmination, meant to them. In the dark of the night, with the class in the background but unable to hear, alone with the Torah in arms and standing in front of the open ark, two nights before the Confirmation service itself our Confirmands give voice, in their own words their “vows” about what their Jewish identity means to them. They then lead a service written with their own words and reflections: a living Midrash (interpretation) and personal reframing of the prayers of Jewish life. In these ways, and more, we teach our soon-to-be young adults to “own” their Jewish identity.
“Stepping In” to Jewish Life
Rabbi Ruth Sohn wrote that “to take the first step – to sing a new song – is to close one’s eyes and dive into unknown waters, for a moment knowing nothing, risking all… but then to discover… the waters are friendly, the ground is firm.”
In an age without religious coercion, it can be said that we are all “Jews-by-choice.” But we know that, throughout our history, there have always been those who sought us out, who joined our ranks, and who made us stronger by the act of their commitment. All those who join the Jewish people do so with their own unique stories, their own sacred journeys, through their own personal choice.
Our clergy work with those exploring Judaism, whatever the outcome of that exploration may be. We provide gateways to Jewish life and entrance points to Jewish learning. And our students, in their journeys, often become our teachers through their words, their deeds, and their lives.
Celebration and Affirmation of the Cycles of our Lives
Anniversaries and special occasions, birthdays and milestones, even – in the greater Washington D.C. area – the appointment to a Presidential commission, are all moments of celebration, private benchmarks which our tradition encourages us to share with others on the public “platform” of our communal worship.
“Mishebeirach Avotainu v’Imoteinu, May the One who blessed our ancestors… be with us as well… at all these special moments of our lives.” Aliyot (being called up to the Torah and reciting the blessings over the reading of the scroll) and blessings from the bimah (the raised platform from which the scroll is read and the service is “led”), participation in the service or recognition from within the congregation are part of our congregation’s life, and an important aspect of our connection with one another.
It’s Never Too Late
Jewish tradition says that we begin “counting” our lives again once we turn 70. So for the 83-year olds among us, it is time to celebrate Bar/Bat/Simchat Mitzvah all over again. As it is, as well, for those who never had the opportunity to become Bar/Bat/Simchat Mitzvah when they turned 13. For Jews-by-choice, for women raised in a tradition which did not treat girls equally, for those who were raised without formal Jewish education, or for any of a number of other reasons, many adults are choosing to go through a cycle of learning and study, preparation and personal growth that leads to this powerful and deeply moving celebration of Jewish accomplishment.
Those interested in finding out more about the Adult Bar/Bat/Simchat Mitzvah program at Temple Shalom should speak with one of our clergy.
The Final Transition
“Birth is a beginning, and death a destination.” The most universal and powerful moments in our lives are the end points of the journey – the moment we come into this world, and the moment we leave it. At Temple Shalom we are here to provide a loving and supportive setting for the most painful of all transitions: the struggle and the mourning associated with the end of life. Our clergy and trained congregants work with the congregation to learn about Jewish customs and practices surrounding death and mourning, plan for and conduct funeral and shivah minyan services (services traditionally held in the homes of mourners in the days immediately following a funeral), and serve as a caring “bridge” for families navigating the details of dealing with hospitals, funeral homes, and cemeteries. We are here, as well, for counsel and whatever comfort we can provide in the face of sadness and tragedy and loss.
In February 2004, our synagogue made the decision to establish a new cemetery. In October that year, we took a new and important step in our history, and our ability to serve the members of our spiritual community. We formally dedicated our own Temple Shalom Cemetery, in partnership with and as a designated area of Garden of Remembrance, Gan Zikaron Memorial Park in Clarksburg, MD. Having our own cemetery allows us to provide for our congregants’ ritual needs in accordance to the customs and practices we believe in. This includes being able to meet many of the needs of interfaith families, as well as allowing some flexibility for different kinds of burial arrangements. The Temple Shalom Cemetery allows our congregation the dignity of side-by-side interments of our congregants’ Jewish and non-Jewish family members. Those with specific questions about any of these areas should be in touch with our clergy well in advance of any need for emergency consultation.
If you are interested in purchasing a burial plot, please contact our Executive Director at ten.molahselpmet@nayaama.