Happy and healthy New Year to you and your family.
Last week, Rabbi Danny Gordis wrote, “Rosh Hashanah is, the liturgy says, yom harat olam — the birthday of the world. A day of new beginnings. Of recognizing the power beyond us that animates this world. Of introspection. Of asking ourselves what we will give birth to this year, what fingerprints we are going to leave on the world.”
I have been thinking all week of what I wanted to write about for the new year. In the past I have provided a long list of ideas for our community. This year, I really want to focus on three main issues of great importance.
There is a midrash about a group of people traveling together in a boat. Suddenly, one man takes a drill and starts making a hole under his seat. When the others cry out for him to stop, he says, “Why are you upset? I’m just drilling under my seat, not yours.”
It takes the others to remind him that the hole may be just under his seat but the water that comes in endangers everyone.
For the past 18 months, the pandemic has impacted us all – albeit in different ways. We must, however, acknowledge that our individual actions greatly impact those around us (get vaccinated…wear a mask). At the same time, I am so impressed by the collaborative work of our Jewish organizations. I hope we continue our joint efforts and do not revert back to focusing on protecting “turf” or "going it alone."
The looming question for all of us is how will we act in the year ahead?
The Talmud (Shavuot 39a), says, “Kol Yisrael arevim zeh bazeh” – meaning all of Israel are responsible for each other. This phrase is the basis of the notion of communal responsibility in Jewish law. My fervent wish for the New Year is that individuals and Jewish organizations, despite any differences, continue to seek common cause and support one another.
Secondly, I am sure we all received many Rosh Hashanah greetings. Gilad Perry, a colleague from our funding partner, Dror Israel, shared in his personal message a phrase that was the motto of Zionist youth movements long before the founding of the State of Israel -- Wisdom to see. Courage to want. Power to act.
In 5782, as Gilad wrote, may we exhibit the wisdom to understand reality and our society…courage to envision a better future…and power to actually change the world for the better. Let's make the most of these "superpowers" to build a stronger community going forward.
Finally, as one rabbi shared, we have been in reaction mode for more than a year and a half. As good as our minds and bodies are about reacting when confronted with a real or perceived threat, our bodies are not used to being in such a state of reaction for so long. It begins to take its toll on our mental and physical wellbeing.
While preparation for the High Holy Days does dictate that we make right our wrongs and set our intentions for the coming year, this year I encourage everyone to focus on maybe the most important thing -- self-care.
I believe we are at a turning point where self-care is viewed as a necessity. Most recently, we witnessed the bravery of Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka on the grandest stages in their respective sports step aside for their health. I just watched a documentary about former pro tennis player Mardy Fish and his mental health issues, including forfeiting a match at the US Open some nine years ago. He was mocked at the time, yet only he could understand his inner thoughts and feelings.
Self-care is the practice of caring for all of the parts of our being — not only our physical health, but also our mental, spiritual and emotional health as well. As important as this is, the hardest part of self-care is making the time for it. Make the time! As a local trainer says, "Invest in your health...it is the best kind of wealth."
With the pandemic continuing and our thoughts directed at you, the Jewish Federation has made the important decision not to hold any in-person nor virtual fundraising events until 2022. This certainly impacts our fundraising as we typically hold three in-person events each fall where we raise a large percentage of our campaign.
This is where we need your help and support.
Over the next few weeks and months, you may receive calls, emails, letters, and a very special invitation to make your gift to our Campaign for Community Needs. Please respond! Make your gift (payable by December 2022)! Help reduce costs! Once you make your gift we will not ask again until fall 2022.
Our goal is to raise in excess of $4 million by December – we can only do this with your responsiveness and cooperation. We are in uncharted waters trying this but, together, we can make it happen. Thank you in advance for your generous support of our community’s campaign.
I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge that tomorrow is the 20th anniversary of the horrific terrorist attacks on our country. We can all remember where we were when we heard about the two planes flying into the World Trade Center buildings, a plane hitting the Pentagon, and later United Airlines flight #93 being forced down by its passengers in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. 2,996 people died and over 25,000 were injured. It was a dark day for our country. Our thoughts continue to go out to the families of those lost that day and gratitude for the first responders then and now. Let us all pray that we only see peaceful days ahead here in the United States and around the world.
Wishing you and your family a Shabbat Shalom and a new year filled with joy and great self-care. And thank you in advance for your contribution to our campaign.