Monday, March 14, 2011

“There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home"

Dorothy had it right. While it’s always fun to go away, coming home is one of the greatest gifts, and there truly is no place just like home. This was brought (pardon the use of the pun) “home” to me recently when my family traveled to Stamford for a cousin’s Bar Mitzvah; it was lovely to see the extended family, and it was nice to be in a hotel for a night away, but my body and soul yearned for the return. Maybe I have grown weary of travel.

If I were to adopt the attitude of a Torah scholar, I would say, though, that there is a reason why L. Frank Baum’s character of Dorothy has to state “there’s no place like home” not once, not even twice, but three times. Nothing in the Bible (or one presumes in the Wizard of Oz either) is there by accident. So what are we to glean from this repetition? Some might argue that the meaning can be found in the fact that being at “home” involves first finding peace with yourself, then your family, and finally with your greater community. Some might remind us that the number three is used to remind us of the Hebrew letter gimel which is close to the word gamal which means camel; therefore Baum was introducing a camel into the story of a Tin Woodsman, a Scarecrow and a Lion (OK, maybe I’m reaching here)…

In Hebrew, the word Beit when used in a phrase like Temple Beth Shalom means “home”. My bayit, or my physical home, is where I live, but we are said to come together as a community in a Beit K’nesset (or Home of Meeting), a Beit Tefillah (a Home for Prayer), and a Beit Midrash (or Home of Study), all for the purpose of creating a Beit Shalom (a Home of Peace). So, for me personally, the repetition of “there’s no place like home” speaks to me about these three divisions: my personal home, our communal and spiritual home (our Temple community), and the physical building that houses us.

As many of you know, before joining the Temple staff in January, I had been working in New York City for the last year and 1 half and commuting weekly for work while living in Dedham. The job in the city was terrific, and I miss the friends and colleagues I had developed there, but I do not miss the commute. As a wonderful part of my new opportunity at TBS, I have both rediscovered my own home in Dedham (and, wow, is my family glad to have me back) and found a new “home” in Needham with a community whose very essence is to be welcoming and nurturing.

This essence of home pervades every interaction I have had with members of our community over the past few months. Every Temple member I speak with expresses how the “family” feeling of TBS defines their interaction with others in our community. Sometimes, like all family relationships, there are moments of loss and pain; in those moments, we reach out to each other for support and care. Sometimes there are moments of celebration; at these times, we kvell in each other’s successes and our hearts soar. Sometimes there are moments of quiet reflection where we sit together in silent support, offering comfort in each other’s presence and a knowledge that while one may be “lonely” for a moment in this community, one is never alone.

So the question naturally comes, do we feel at home in our building? How does our physical space help to support and nurture us and our interactions with each other? I now have a home in the administrative wing (a comfortable if modest space), and I encourage you to come visit it; for me, it is a comforting and comfortable space allowing me a “home” to do my work for the community. I have found moments of prayer and contemplation in our sanctuary with its stunning architectural elements of light, air, glass and wood. I have seen moments of casual interaction in our atrium that have supported the knitting of our community fabric. I have borne witness to the educational experiences that happen throughout our learning spaces, from Children Center classroom, to Religious School classroom, to the Garden Club and Community Rooms, to Simon Hall. I have also seen the underpinnings of our physical home, visiting the storage spaces, the elevator shaft, and the boiler room. Our building has some faults, and some areas for improvement. It also has many strengths. Like my comfortable pair of jeans, it may be showing some wear, but I feel so “at home” when I am in the space, and I am sure you do too.

So, what is it about our physical space that most makes you feel “at home”? Are there areas of the building that you think best represent who we are as a community? How does our physical space do work when it is at its best? Where in our building do we need to do the most work in your opinion to help deliver on our promise of a Beit Shalom? What would you like to see happen to our physical home as we move forward as a community?


  1. I love our playground, where especially in the summer, it feels like you are in the middle of the woods. It's shady and beautiful, with trees all around. It would be wonderful to have more such outdoor spaces where we could retreat for services or community gatherings.

  2. It is so nice to have you in our temple home! Already you have added wisdom, guidance, enthusiasm and an amazing singing voice to our community.
    I'd like to see the atrium look more inviting. Perhaps an indoor garden and an additional seating area.

  3. I love that idea Marcy. Plants would be so nice!