On one of the first spring days warm enough to draw sweat, Dan Resnick stood on the corner of Aylesboro and Shady avenues in Squirrel Hill wearing a sweater and jacket, smiling wide.
Forget the heat; Sunday, March 21, was a day he’d been awaiting for over 30 years — the day when his congregation, Dor Hadash, would finally move into a permanent home.
Around 2:30 p.m., over 30 members of Dor Hadash met to parade their three Torahs under a chuppah down Shady Avenue to Tree of Life synagogue, which will now house the city’s only Reconstructionist congregation. The expansive Tree of Life building already holds its own congregation as well as Or L’Simcha; the trio’s convergence has been in the works since last fall.
The mood of the short promenade was as bright as the day itself; Dor Hadash Cantor Cheryl Klein led the group in Hebrew songs of celebration. Some hands were clapping; others were clasped with a loved one.
Congregant Jean Clickner, a 20-year member, even brought a tambourine; blasts of a shofar shot up and down the street.
The symbolism of Dor Hadash as a wandering congregation coming to a promised land didn’t escape the congregants.
“Whenever we sing ‘Ma Tovu’ as a congregation, we’re always looking around,” said Resnick. “We’re trying to remember the importance of place in holiness and worship. We found a way to be comfortable every place we’ve been, but [Tree of Life] seems to open up great possibilities before us.”
Resnick and his wife Lauren have been Dor Hadash members since 1969; they’ve seen the congregation move from a spot at Denniston and Forbes avenues in Squirrel Hill, briefly into Rodef Shalom and then into the Community Day School building.
“This is the second time I can remember a Torah procession like this,” said Resnick. “And where the Torah is, that’s where we make our home.”
Alan Gordon, executive vice president of Tree of Life, joined the procession.
“For the community, this is using our resources in a very positive way. It’s positive for all the congregations,” said Gordon. “Dor Hadash will now have a home to identify with, and Tree of Life will have more Jewish activity in the building. It’s what we’re all about.”
As the Torah-led group approached Tree of Life’s front doors, the singing and clapping gained an excited energy; voices singing “Henei Ma Tov” bounced through the front lobby as Dor Hadash entered its new home. Then quiet; Cantor Klein stepped to the center of the group.
“We’re able to make this move to the Tree of Life building with the means and the values that perpetuate Dor Hadash congregation,” she said. “Now it’s up to us to continue in the spirit of unity and faith to proudly build a home of Torah and learning, an exemplary center of inspiration to the Pittsburgh community and to the Jewish world.”
Almost instantaneously, the congregation chanted a shehekianu.
Klein then led the congregation to Tree of Life’s three major gathering places — the sanctuary, chapel and social hall — placing a Dor Hadash Torah in each.
“Let’s hear some ruach!” cried Klein after placing the first Torah in Tree of Life’s sanctuary ark.
In the social hall, as the last Torah was placed in a wooden ark, the celebratory feeling reached its peak; congregants danced together, sang and passed around glasses of champagne.
“I’m always up for a little l’chaim,” said Klein.
Dor Hadash President Deane Root stood at the front of the room, looking on proudly.
“We’ve been in each others homes, in rented space. But now, we’re arriving,” he said. “Many people have compared this to the story of wandering for 40 years and finally arriving in the Promised Land. That’s the way it really feels. The anxieties and hopes and dreams have just built up, and once we walked in those doors, the energy exploded.”
“As we are being welcomed in today, we’d like the rest of the community to know that they always have a place at Dor Hadash,” said Klein. “I consider [the congregation], outside of my family and my husband, to be a true love affair.”
Standing in the midst of the newest chapter in Dor Hadash’s half-century history, the sentiment was clearly shared.
(Justin Jacobs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)