I have a quick story to share with you. During this pandemic one of my favorite activities has been bringing gifts and materials to friends, neighbors, and community members, whether for personal celebrations, holidays, our local Buy Nothing group, or our PJ Library Western Massachusetts holiday activity kits. I have two daughters who are now four and a half and two and a half and in the past eighteen months they’ve come with me for many of these delivery trips. Of course they always ask who we are delivering gifts to, and my answer is usually friends of one kind or another, so my Sofia has developed a very beautiful worldview that I’d like to share with you. The people we visit are always either friends, or friends we haven’t met yet.
Friends, I hope you have found some joy and renewal this week as we celebrated Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, cast away our mistakes of the past year, and apologized to those we may have harmed. It is our responsibility not only to ask others for forgiveness, but also to forgive. If you have had challenging, disappointing, or frustrating experiences over the past year, whether with an individual or an organization, that you will take this opportunity to speak, to listen, and to move forward if forgiveness is possible.
Can we try again? I am here to listen on behalf of the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts because we value you, your perspective, your experiences, and your impact on our community. After speaking, and listening, and agreeing to try again to repair the relationship, the next essential step is making real change, not just speaking the words. As our Federation embarks on a year of intentional change, we want to hear from you, if you are willing to share your past experiences and give us the opportunity to create change.
Yesterday was the Fast of Gedalia, which as Liel Liebowitz of Tablet Magazine and Unorthodox describes it, “commemorates the assassination of Gedalia Ben Achikam, the governor of Judea following the destruction of the First Temple. He was warned that a fellow Jew, a zealot, was conspiring to murder him, and yet refused to disinvite the man, arguing that the love of Klal Yisrael, the whole of Israel, is a sacred principle. His murder shook the Jewish community so much that a day of fast and mourning was instituted to commemorate his life and death.”
While we–as a community and as a country–experience an incredibly difficult time of conflict and disagreement, we need to be understanding and respectful of each other by leaving space for others, listening, and appreciating our differences. I hope you will join me in taking more time to listen and understand other perspectives, creating a shared expectation of respect as we work toward an ideal vision of the future. My vision, which I hope you will share, is a community in which we truly value and love our neighbors despite our differences and consider each other not only neighbors but friends who are able to meaningfully discuss and sometimes agree to disagree. A culture of philanthropy, in which we are each here to give generously of the resources we can provide, can only grow when we are open to hearing each other’s needs, and sharing our own priorities and passions.
I hope we continue to develop our friendship in meaningful ways in this new year, and I look forward to connecting with you soon.
Shabbat Shalom and G’mar Chatimah Tovah, wishing you a peaceful Shabbat and a good year ahead,