Congregating with creation

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Members of the congregation from Progressive Temple Beth Ahavath Sholom got back to nature on July 11, gathering at the Salt Marsh Nature Center in Marine Park for an outdoor Shabbat service.

“It gives you a different perspective when you are praising God’s creation when it is right in front of your eyes,” said Suzanne Bernstein, the cantor and spiritual leader at the synagogue.

About 60 people, including members of other congregations, came together for the al fresco Shabbat. The congregation used to have Shabbat services on the beach occasionally, but this was its first outdoor service since 2006. Borrowing from the past turned out to be a big hit.

“The cantor tailored the service toward an appreciation of nature,” said Sam Silverman, the congregation’s president. “It was lovely. We live in a very urban area but it is nice to see God in nature.”

Putting the event together took planning, including choosing a location and getting a permit from the parks department. Two of the synagogue’s congregants are also volunteers at the Nature Center, and suggested the spot as a possible location. The work done by the center in recent years to beautify the salt marsh made it a perfect setting for the service, according to the cantor.

“The salt marsh is a perfect place to show how God intended nature to be,” Bernstein said. “It was very inspiring to see what kind of things have been done there. If we could do it there, we can transform other places, as well.”

Reach reporter Eric Faynberg at (718) 260–2508 or by e-mail at Follow him on Twitter @ericfaynberg.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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