Reconstructionist synagogues partner for Tisha B’Av service


By Ellen Braunstein

Columbia Jewish Congregation has organized a joint service with other Reconstructionist synagogues to commemorate the saddest day on the Jewish calendar, Tisha B’Av.

Rabbi Michael Hess Webber
Rabbi Michael Hess Webber

The 9th of Av — this year Aug. 6 — is a day of fasting marking the destruction of the two Temples in Jerusalem, and with it, the exile (galut) of the Jewish people.

Rabbi Michael Hess Webber of the Columbia synagogue initiated the service to “create a communal experience for Tisha B’Av, which has relevance for today.”

“Tisha B’Av is especially important and powerful this year,” Webber said. “It commemorates moments of fracture and tearing in our Jewish identity, in our Jewish peoplehood.”

Joining the Tisha B’Av commemoration are Beit Tikvah of Baltimore, Kol HaLev of Timonium, Mishkan Torah of Greenbelt and Oseh Shalom of Laurel. The 8:30-10:30 p.m. service will be presented in person at Oakland Mills Interfaith Center at 5885 Robert Oliver Place in Columbia. The event is hybrid so it can be experienced virtually.

Webber writes on the synagogue’s website of the anticipated experience. “We
will gather to be in the brokenness with one another – to grow in awareness of our personal and communal grief and to hold that grief together.”

Tisha B’Av has modern meaning, Webber said. “There’s been a lot of moments this year where we have felt that fracturing and that tearing and it isn’t limited to the Jewish people,” she said. “It’s the world at large.

“There’s been a lot of pain and a lot of stress and trauma,” she said. “And I think people handle it in different ways. With the added trauma of COVID it means that we have been disconnected from one another and so maybe some of those community structures that we had available to us to help us cope and come to terms with some of these challenges we’ve had aren’t as strong as they used to be. And so we thought, why don’t we come together to create space for some mourning and the brokenness to really reflect and grow in awareness of our personal and communal grief and to hold that grief together as an extended community.”

Tisha B’Av is less about being a mourner than about being a refugee. “With the destruction of the Temples, we were sent into exile,” Webber said. “So it really represents this moment when we became homeless. We become wanderers, we became refugees and the world, where the ground was steady, was torn away. So it’s a highly traumatic moment.”

Tisha B’Av allows space for contemplation. “We can be quick to jump toward healing especially in this Western culture. Pull yourself up, get ready, we’re going to keep going, we’re going to keep moving and I think that can be really hard when we don’t have places to process. And we don’t have places where we’re allowed to really grieve and be sad and be in pain and to be held and seen in that pain.”

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