For many decades the small Jewish community on the Kenai Peninsula have held Sabbath and holiday services in family homes, churches, and public meeting places. Like most people who moved to Alaska in the last 50 years, members of the community that gathered together came from a variety of different backgrounds, geographic locations, family traditions, and personal experience with Judaism.
For the first time in the history of the Kenai Peninsula, the Jewish community has taken a step to strengthen their ties with others in the Northwest and around the world by affiliating with the Union of American Hebrew Congregations known as Reform.
"The community now will get to extend its resources and it's connections to other people through the 915 Jewish congregations throughout North America. Local people will be able to hook up with events, camps, trips overseas and all kinds of opportunities for people to connect with in order to feel more a part of things," said Rabbi David Fine, Director for the Pacific Northwest Council.
Rabbi Fine traveled to Kenai from Seattle to share a Sabbath service with the community and present the members with an official certification declaring the congregation known as Briat Elohim (Hebrew for "God's Creation") an affiliate of the Union of American Congregations, commonly known as the Reform movement.
While offering a myriad of opportunities to enhance a community, the Reform movement does not impose requirements, "It's up to the individual community, they don't have to do what is done in other places, but certainly there is a wealth of activities available to enhance growth and education, but it's up to the local community," said Rabbi Fine.
As part of the Sabbath service, Rabbi Fine read from a traveling Torah scroll, the first five books of the Bible hand written on parchment in the language with which they have been read for more than 3,000 years. The Torah stands at the core of all Jewish community, and when asked about the experience of being able to read fluently from such an ancient text as it was originally written, the Rabbi replied, "I smile just thinking about it! I feel that I am a link, each of us as an individual is a link, yet in this teaching, learning and studying I can help transmit this to a community which has this at its core. It's a great blessing and I feel fortunate to be able to do this."
Rabbi Fine also said that he feels there are many paths to the summit of a mountain, and we can learn a great deal from studying and learning from each other, "While religion has often been used as an item of contention, but I believe that it can be used to bring people together to live in peace and that we can be a source of hope and inspiration for each other," said Rabbi Fine.
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