PAS Dedicates Eli M. Black Lifelong Learning Center

Park Avenue Synagogue opened the next chapter of the congregation's history on October 15, 2017, with the dedication of the  Eli M. Black Lifelong Learning Center at 11 East 89th Street.

Opening Remarks
Rabbi Elliot J. Cosgrove

Im tirtzu, ein zo aggadah, “If you will it, it is no dream.”
These words, spoken by Theodore Herzl as he imagined the upbuilding of the Hebrew homeland, speak to the driving ethic of our people throughout our history. In times good and bad, freedom and persecution, time and again our people have sought to establish those institutions capable of carrying our people forward in strength. The tabernacle set up by the Israelites in their wilderness wanderings. The Temple established by King Solomon in Jerusalem. The edifice of Rabbinic literature constructed in the wake of destruction and exile. The JCC movement set into motion by Mordecai Kaplan and others as European Jewry arrived on American soil. The State of Israel built upon the ashes of the Shoah. In every age, at every stage of history, our people have willed into existence those structures capable of honoring our past, serving the present, and ensuring a vital Jewish future. The dreams were willed into reality and a new chapter of our history opened.

And so too here in this celebratory hour. Today is a dream willed into reality.
Today’s dedication reflects the vision and countless hours of work and wisdom by the lay and professional team of your synagogue. Today reflects an unprecedented outpouring of support by the collective Park Avenue Synagogue family. It reflects the breathtaking commitment by the Black family, as we honor the memory of Eli M. Black, z”l, both today and in the generations to come. No question, today reflects the delicious fact that our community is a dynamic, growing, and vital “synagogue in action” – a place overflowing with prayer, communal connection, and ma’asim tovim, good deeds.

But at its core, today’s dedication reflects the shared belief, spoken or merely understood, that ours is a Jewish generation whose future will come by way of a commitment to Jewish learning. American Jewry exists in blessed circumstances, secure at home and committed to our brethren in the State of Israel. And yet for all our blessings, we know that far too often, far too many of our people stand alienated from that one thing that has nourished and sustained and protected us from generation to generation – our Torah. Yes, today we are dedicating a building. But like the Maccabees of old, today we are rededicating ourselves to the proposition that the future of our people will come by way of our ability to establish love and literacy of our tradition, our masoret, in ourselves, in our children, and in the generations to come.

Beautiful as this building is (and it is) celebratory as this hour may be (and it is), my overwhelming emotion right now comes from the prospective thought of what will occur in this building in the years to come. I think of the young child introduced to her first Shabbat song. I think of the Congregational School classes learning our history or studying the Hebrew language. I think of the thousands of Bnei Mitzvah students being tutored in our tradition. I think of the classes and lectures and book clubs and music salons and programming that will animate our adult learning community. I think of the incalculable number of meetings to dream dreams and plan for a future that we here cannot even imagine. I think of the untold number of would-be Jews seeking a pathway into Judaism and Jewish life who will find it in this building. If you allow yourself – and I encourage you to do so – let your mind wander to consider the breathtaking number of souls that will be shaped by the Torah that will be studied in this building. A Torah anchored in Sinai, but always speaking to the issues of the day. A Torah that strengthens our communal bonds, but never forgets the striving of the individual soul. A Torah with depth and sophistication, but always, always, always accessible to the searcher seeking a point of access into the inheritance that is all of ours – equally – to share.

Ki hem hayeinu v’orekh yameinu, u-vahem nehgeh yomam va-lailah. For they are our life and the fullness of our days; we shall meditate on them day and night. May today’s dedication and all it represents inspire us all to recommit to becoming lifelong learners, to our Torah and to the opening of yet another exciting chapter for our people.

With gratitude to all those who have brought us to this point in our congregational history, with gratitude to all those who have worked tirelessly and generously toward making today possible, and with eager anticipation of the Torah that will be taught in the days to come, I welcome you today.
See more memories from the dedication, including a Jewish Week article and pictures from throughout the day.