Creating Sacred Spaces

Emily Goldberg
June 25, 2012
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Home is a place that I once took for granted. I opened my front door to a warm family, nourishing meals, and unconditional love on a daily basis, never once curious if these blessings in life could ever be limited for me. While I knew that there were countless people in the world who were less fortunate than I was, it never occurred to me that my home, while sturdy and warm, served as one of the most sacred spaces in my life, one in which both God and peace dwell. I also could not imagine the idea of a home being broadened in some of the most extreme ways. That, however, quickly changed for me during my previous spring break.

Throughout one week, I noticed that God’s presence is not only dwelling in sacred spaces such as temples and churches, but also in the heart of South Broward County. Upon my arrival at the Jubilee Center’s soup kitchen, I was not expecting this week of community service to significantly alter my outlook on a cup of soup, a smile on someone’s face, or even the boundaries of my own faith. Of course, it only took an hour to exceed those expectations by a landslide.

The Jubilee Center, based off of the biblical concept of jubilee, or festivity, changes lives each and every day. This small facility is filled with both experienced social service workers and selfless volunteers, all who cater to the needs of the Jubilee benefactors. Every morning, the Jubilee Center serves over one hundred hot meals, ensuring that no one is left hungry. Families of any size and economical state are guaranteed undivided attention and nourishment during their daily visits, and even some of the most close minded people leave this soup kitchen and center smiling. Despite the recession and all the ignorance in the world, I take comfort in knowing that inside the doors of the Jubilee soup kitchen, the potentials to create our own jubilee are endless. One of the first priorities of this soup kitchen is not only to feed the bodies of its clients, but also the souls; the Jubilee Center has become a reliable home for all walks of life.

Every day at the Jubilee center is a miracle that is never taken for granted. Each bowl of soup is ladled and received with the upmost gratitude. The volunteers, varying from students, parents, and a seventy-eight year old former military officer, smile voluntarily and serve with not only with spoons and tongs, but also with their hearts. Without the chefs, social workers, and the committed, altruistic volunteers who never fail to smile each day, this thriving community home would be lifeless and un-sacred.

Perhaps the most inspirational aspect of the Jubilee center is the receiving, grateful community. As over one hundred meals are served daily with no prior menu, each tray of food is returned with a thankful response. The people, varying in age, race, and gender, not only respect the food they are given, but also each other. Frequently, I noticed men standing courteously behind women, and the singles would create seating room for families. Prior to each meal, the entire community, including the Jubilee staff and volunteers, gathers in a circle just outside the front door, bows their heads, and prays in unity. At that very moment, all the gloves, hairnets, and differences in religion and race are put aside. During that powerful moment of prayer, I was holding hands with a man who did not know where his next meal would be, but praised God anyway. At that moment, with our eyes closed, we gratefully blessed the sacred space we have created in this soup kitchen, rather than the elaborate mansions we couldn’t yet afford. Each day of my spring break, I watched our united faith override hunger.

While the world is still far from arriving at universal and eternal peace, the places like the Jubilee Center only bring us closer to that goal. Beyond its work in feeding and sustaining the lives of those in need, Jubilee emphasizes that a home can be created amidst an area of homelessness. While there is still a sense of spirituality within my own home, it is the places like the Jubilee Center that expand both my boundaries of faith and my definition of home.

This past week, I gained an understanding that God is not only available through prayer, rituals, or studying. Faith can be as beautiful and as simple as ladling soup into a bowl. The love and faith shared in each bowl of soup at the Jubilee Center proves that God really is working all around us; He dwells among us through both the brightest and dimmest times in both the most standard and alternative homes.

Since my eye-opening spring break, I wake up every morning thanking God for giving me faith, and the Jubilee Center for sustaining it.

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Emily Goldberg is a freshman at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania. She loves sharing her perspective on faith and religion, especially with her own growing Jewish community. She began recording her own ideas in her blog, “A Leap of Faith.” In the future, she hopes to pursue interfaith studies, social action, theology, and writing. This past summer she joined a life-long community of Jewish thinkers and leaders, The Bronfman Youth Fellowships in Israel. This year, she pursued her passion for spiritual leadership through her rabbinic internship at Romemu [], her pastoral internship at St. Patrick's Cathedral and her job as a counselor at Camp Ramah Darom in Georgia. She hopes to lead a liberal and innovative Jewish community of her own someday, one where others can be inspired to pursue coexistence and positive change.

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