40th Anniversary Essays                Forty Years by David Spevack

Forty years.  It's hard to believe that forty years have passed since a small group of Jews got together in the Greenbelt area and put together a congregation.  For fifteen years they wandered, meeting in schools and each other's homes, carrying the ark, like the Israelites in the desert, from place to place in order to convene.  I leave for others to chronicle the names and feats of those individuals who planted the seed which has grown into Mishkan Torah.

Twenty-five years ago that small group, now merged with another, built the building we still use today.  The construction was not a figurative building but was actual, as the members put brick on brick to assemble a home for their wandering congregation.  In the years that followed others have come forward and, with as much love and devotion as was exerted by those original members, repaired a broken window here, a door there, a leaking roof.  And still others stepped forward with the same love and devotion to plan and see to the construction of an addition to the building, to refurbish the sanctuary, and to do a myriad of other tasks which keep the physical plant as a warm home for the congregation.  And what of the people?  A building is just a building.  People make a congregation.  The people too have grown, in numbers and in commitment, to build this congregation and the Jewish people as a whole.  The congregation has taken a rightful place for itself among the congregations of the Washington metropolitan area and the congregations of our country.  We have developed a school program which is envied and copied.  We have a name for producing publications and programs that excel those of congregations many times our size, and we have people willing to make commitments to study, to strive, and to continue to improve the lot of all.

I am content for the future knowing that the whole world does not rest on my shoulders alone as president of the congregation.  I can look to a fine group of new members that I know are ready to take up the burdens so that next year, five years, ten years from now there will be a vibrant, growing congregation. Looking at our new members and our youth I feel that in twice these anniversary years there will still be a place to come to study and discuss Torah, to listen to the sweet singers of Israel, to socialize, to enjoy a bagel, and to continue the endless chain of Jewish peoplehood.  Forty years is but a moment in the course of time, but a long, arduous path in the struggle to keep a congregation alive and flourishing.  As we begin this year of anniversary, twenty-five years in the building and forty years in the congregation, let us - like our B'nei and B'not Mitzvah - look at this as a beginning, a strong foundation and a model on which to build an even better congregation.