Last Wednesday morning, a beautiful photograph of Jerusalem stone appeared in my Facebook newsfeed. The picture shows a large wall with a wooden ark in the middle, part of a new sanctuary being built in Lake Norman, North Carolina. I smiled because four years ago I served as an Education Fellow for the Lake Norman Jewish Community. I worked with their enthusiastic Rabbi, Michael Shields, got to know dedicated young families, and sang songs with a flourishing religious school.
I enjoyed my visits to this congregation, but I always seemed to bring a bit of calamity with me. On my trip during Hanukkah we spent all Sunday morning participating in a Hanukkah Maccabiah complete with dreidel costumes, menorah relays, holiday trivia, and of course latkes! While the latkes were sizzling in the hallway, we managed to set the off the fire alarms and had to finish our potato sack races outside. Much to the students’ delight, we were greeted by two fire trucks that morning and got to feed the fireman what were most likely their first-ever taste of latkes.
The next spring, Rabbi Shields and I planned a morning of Israel activities to celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut. When we arrived at the building, however, we realized we were locked out. Always ready for the unexpected, I conducted a session of Aleph Bet Yoga on the lawn to fill the half-hour or so that it took for us to get a key.
These challenges occurred because, like many new or small Jewish communities in our region and beyond, Lake Norman Jewish Congregation did not have a building of its own. They rented and borrowed spaces all across town; those fire alarms went off at an elementary school, and the building we were locked out of was on the campus of Davidson College.