I have always considered myself a realistic optimist, a person who sees the world in abundance rather than scarcity. Although the pandemic has caused a small dent in my outlook, something usually happens to bring me back.
This week, that something is Worcester. Exciting news from the recent census shows that in the past 10 years, Worcester’s population has grown from 180,000 to 206,000, which is over 14%! Worcester is one of the fastest growing cities in New England and has grown twice the average rate in the country. As the 2nd largest city in New England, we’ve left both Providence and Springfield far behind us.
Why is this important? It is a sign that people want to come to Worcester. We have a good quality of life with a decent cost of living – certainly much better than anywhere close to Boston. And there is much to attract people: beautiful geography and recreation; great restaurants; an impressive arts community; sports; colleges and universities; a medical school and great medical care; diversity and culture; innovation in biotech and other industries; an extensive non-profit community; and so much more.
When I first interviewed at Temple Emanuel Sinai, I did my research on Worcester. From what I read, Worcester was at a tipping point. With just the right push, Worcester could be propelled to greatness… or just tumble back to the past. I was convinced of the former. And we’re seeing it happen. Even with the pandemic, our city and its surrounding towns continue to grow and flourish. People are moving here. The Worcester “Renaissance” may have experienced a slight pause, but it is still moving forward.
Temple Emanuel Sinai is benefitting from that growth. For the past few years, we’ve had young families and young adults circling the periphery of our community: attending Pray and Play or Purim Carnival; commenting on our Facebook page about our diversity work; and asking me to officiate at weddings and baby namings.
Here is the most significant evidence of our growth: for the first time since Temple Emanuel Sinai began, our Religious School has more new students registered than those who graduated – almost twice the number! This is certainly something to celebrate as we look toward the New Year. In this way and many more, the future is indeed bright.