Rabbi Jan Katz has been serving as the part-time rabbi for TBI for 2 years now.  During this time, Rabbi Katz, who travels from Rochester, New York, twice a month, has ingrained herself into the interfaith community of the Lakes Region with engaging programs like our recent Interfaith Model Seder and working with the Laconia Human Relations Committee and other church groups to bring the community together for an interfaith observance of Yom HaShoah.  With her easy-going manner, and affable personality, Rabbi Jan has made friendships throughout the region with clergy from multiple churches.  Rabbi Jan continues to find ways to bring TBI into the forefront of events and programs throughout the Lakes Region.

On Thursday, May 2nd, Rabbi Jan was called upon to lead the closing benediction at the 10th Annual Lakes Region Inter-Faith Prayer Breakfast that was held at the St. Andre Bessette Parish Hall in Laconia.  Rabbi Jan’s words of healing and hope, found below, followed closely on the message of the guest speakers about the concern for unsheltered neighbors in our community.

On behalf of Temple B’nai Israel and the Jewish community of the Lakes Region, thank you for including us in this ecumenical gathering and for embracing us in the spirit of our shared values and vision for a more just and kinder world.

The Bible, sacred foundation of beliefs to many of us, is replete with homelessness and wandering.  Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden of Eden. Abraham begins his relationship with God by leaving his native land, and Jacob and his sons leave their own home to go down to Egypt.  The Jewish people endured millennia of national homelessness, ending only with the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.  It is no wonder that housing stability looms large in the Jewish tradition.  The prophetic cry of the prophet in Isaiah 58:7: “take the homeless poor into your homes,” defines the relief of homelessness as a religious duty.

May we find the resources to donate to organizations that help those in need of shelter.  May we participate in community-based efforts to construct affordable housing or provide direct assistance to homeless folk or to inadequately housed families, that can help reduce some of their housing burden. And, may we advocate for governmental policies and programs that provide housing to those in need, that give people the means to afford housing on their own, and that protect residents from premature eviction.

Central to all faiths is a concern that housing be safe, secure, and permanent, and that every home allows its inhabitants to live a full and dignified life. I offer the following blessing this morning from Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama:

May we become at all times, both now and forever
Protectors for those without protection
Guides for those who have lost their way
Ships for those with oceans to cross
Bridges for those with rivers to cross
Sanctuaries for those in danger
Lamps for those without light
Places of refuge for those who lack shelter
And servants to all in need.

And may all our aspirations be fulfilled!

Together let us say, Amen

And in the Jewish tradition, our prayers always end in our vision and hope for peace:

Oseh shalom bimromav, hu ya-aseh shalom, aleinu v’al kol Yisrael, v’al kol yoshvei tevel, v’imru amen.

May the Eternal One who makes peace in the heavens above, bring peace upon us, upon all Israel, upon all the inhabitants of the world, and together we say “amen.”

After attending the Prayer Breakfast in Laconia, that same day, Rabbi Jan made a heartwarming visit to the Tilton Veterans Home. Pastor Paul DeHart, the chaplain who is also a veteran himself, invited Rabbi Jan to interact with some of the residents.

Rabbi Katz described the visit as “such a treat!” she reported lively discussions, lots of joking, and even playfully telling some of the residents she needed their humor on her synagogue’s bimah to liven up her sermons.

Pastor DeHart echoed the positive sentiment in a follow-up email: “It was such a blessing to have you here to share with our dear veterans! We all enjoyed your open, informative, and light-bringing presentation and presence. Your prayer for peace everywhere was so very appropriate to these turbulent times.”

Thank you Rabbi Jan for keeping Temple B’nai Israel in the heart of the Lakes Region Community!