Today is June 19, 2019 -

Chisuk Emuna Congregation

of Greater Harrisburg, PA

3219 Green Street, Harrisburg, PA 17110-5507
Phone: 717-232-4851 |

An Experience by Dr. Maggie Grotzinger

Dr. Maggie Grotzinger
As a member of Chisuk Emuna Congregation, whose synagogue sanctuary was destroyed by fire in 2009, I recently participated in a workshop about designing the interior of our future home on Green and Vaughn streets in uptown Harrisburg.

Craig Match, of Harrisburg, places the last of the holy documents into a grave before burial. Chisuk Emuna synagogue was damaged by a fire April 3, 2009 and members of the congregation buried them to send them back to G-d.

JENNY KANE/ The Patriot-News

As part of the design process, we were encouraged to think about what message we wanted to present to those who walked through our doors. A large challenge within this task is that the space will be used for different purposes.

Gone are the days of a sanctuary with permanent pews and a separate hall for social events. In order to save money, be energy efficient and “green,” our new synagogue will be smaller and contain multiple moveable walls so the same space can be used for various functions.

It’s possible that during a big service, we could be praying in front of the Ark, which contains our sacred Torah scrolls, and 30 minutes later, in the same place, we could be munching on a bagel with cream cheese, schmoozing with friends, discussing the latest football game scores and where our children are applying for college. There’s something inherently disconcerting about this — when I think of our previous sanctuary, it was a sacred space to be respectful, think of G-d, and reflect.
How does one therefore define a sacred space? I think most would describe it as a place set aside for the purpose of connecting with G-d or a higher being, and accompanied by certain rituals. As I thought about this further, it occurred to me that in Judaism, chomping down a bagel with cream cheese is, in fact, a ritual act — provided one says the blessing for eating bread first, followed by the Birkat Hamazon, our grace after meals, prayers that praise G-d and thank him for providing us with food.

What I love about Judaism is that in reality it attempts to make everything in our lives a “sacred space.” In essence, everything we do or say should be in the context of creating a “sacred space” around us — certain rituals should be followed, with the ultimate goal of connecting to G-d.

As one who follows politics and elections fairly closely, I can’t help but have a sense of dread for the upcoming presidential elections in 2012. Dread, because of the kinds of things that will be said and the anticipated acrimonious debate between candidates. My wish is that each presidential candidate will think about creating a sacred space around them as they gear up their campaigns. A sacred space where they don’t delegitimize others, speak the truth and remember that they are trying to attain a position where they are responsible for the welfare of all of their constituents.

Every week when I prepare to operate on a patient, we have what is called a “Time Out” in the operating room — another ritual that I have come to realize is a sacred space in time. During the “Time Out,” the entire operating room stops and pauses.
The patient is identified, the intended procedure is announced, allergies are noted and other important information about the patient is shared so everyone is on the same page. This is a way to ensure that wrong sides are not operated on, and that the patient is not exposed to something that could be life threatening.

Dr. Maggie Grotzinger

In my eyes, it is a way to make sure that we, as an operating team, do no harm, and for me personally, that I am doing the best I can do for a patient, as G-d would want me to.

Imagine taking a “Time Out” every time you were about to participate in a meeting, a social event with friends or interacting with your family. Think about what you are going to say, how you are going to act and realize that you are setting an example for others. Taking a “Time Out” creates a sacred space around you.

I vote for a “Time Out” for all of our politicians before they speak publicly or enter a televised debate — don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating a formal prayer session before debates, because this goes against our laws of separating government from religion — rather, an opportunity to make sure that everyone participating is on the same page, as we do in the operating room.

The same page being that they are there to present facts, and their view of fixing our country, and yet to be respectful of others who are presenting their opinions. Imagine thinking of a presidential debate as a sacred space; we can only hope.
Dr. Maggie Grotzinger of Hummelstown specializes in gynecology. She is writing a monthly column through January. Due to her Jewish beliefs, she asked that the name of G-d not be spelled out in full, out of respect.