By Rabbi Shawn Zevit


Shalom and welcome back from the summer into the season of individual return and communal consciousness-raising! We are re-gathering under ongoing shape-shifting circumstances, thankfully in larger numbers in person more frequently, and on-line for services and programs as the New Jewish Year brings us together again. We have, with creativity and commitment, found safe and creative ways to rejoice together, thanks to our member volunteers technical skill and gift of time


Each of us have had discoveries and losses, breakthroughs and dissolutions, moments of isolation and meaningful connections. Having lost my beloved mother, Sheila, this past year who became one of our first “online friends” in this digital age, and my father, Les the year before, Simcha and I thank you all so much for your caring support in the wake of their deaths. We will continue to encircle each other with love and support through our Acts of Caring/Gemilut Hasadim, for to be in a covenantal community with each other means being there at peak moments, and the everyday sacred opportunities across the unfolding of time. 


The Yamim Noraim - The Days of Awe, ask us to face the truth of our circumstance, strengthen communal bonds, make amends to live in solidarity with all beings, and explore for the long haul, the connections, and tools for resiliency. We might call this the practice of Hindsight-Insight-Foresight from a philosophical and organizational perspective- as our president, Jean Brody, refers to in her inaugural President’s column. In our liturgy and many theologies, we might express awareness as: “Is/Was/Will Be” or “Melech/Malach/Yimloch” (The Divine or Sovereign Self of past, present and future coming towards us), in the context of the High Holy Days.


Along with myself and a host of member leaders in the months ahead as well as guest clergy and teachers this year, we will explore these themes and apply them across the board of our programs and practices. This includes offerings during our High Holy Days, the President of Reconstructing Judaism, Rabbi Deborah Waxman who will visit us on the Shabbat of Sukkot, and guest spiritual leaders speaking about Ecology and Jewish wisdom, contemporary approaches to soulful living and the transcendent in our lives, facing down anti-Racism through Jewish wisdom practices, and other programs informed by our Statement of Principles and your interests. In fact, based on some of your input from last year’s Strategic Learning process, we have a goal of revisiting our Statement of Principles this year (last amended in 2001), engaging with who we aspired to be when we formed as an inclusive and spiritually activist Reconstructionist community in 1988, and seeing where we need to redefine and reaffirm the covenant of our mission and all that flows from it. 


Let us continue to be bold and claim this coming year. Let us not wait for hindsight and lament what we might have done for the sake of the planet, our nation, and communities, for our own lives and those of our loved ones. Too much is at stake to "sit this one out" or wait for the perfect solution or candidate or time. And at the same time, let us be kind with ourselves and do what we need in self-care to stay well and available for the long-term.


We can reach for clarity, compassion, and action, and engage more fully with the expanse of life’s choices, blessings, and challenges in clear, true, and accountable ways. This does not have to mean grand gestures at every turn. It could mean a quiet loving act or supportive moment as much as safely taking to the streets and getting out the vote or actively being involved in responding to inequity, war and prejudice of all kinds individually or systemically.


And so, we lean into the ancient call of the Days of Awe to explore with determination amid the fires burning literally and figuratively in our world- who will we be? What will you let go of or take on in your life? How can we as a sacred community realize our collective potential linking together our individual journeys with those of all in our community and country? 


We will follow the lead of the very names the sages ascribed to Rosh Hashanah: Yom HaZikaron- Days of Remembering (what do we want to remember that we learned from the real challenges of the last year?) ties to Yom Teruah- the Day of the Shofar Blast (clearing a way into the future where we can integrate and follow-through on what we have awoken to in real action in the year ahead).


So many of you have risen to the challenge in the last months by offering on-line programs, mutual and financial support. Our community, both needs you, your engagement and your support and is a place to tap into reservoirs of renewed strength, clarity, and connection to our life purpose and to the possibility of who we may yet be together.


As I take these words in myself, I assess my own leadership of service, my partnering, parenting, and friendships. I see my contributions and growth, and often my falling short of the person I long to be in this precious one life- especially coming off a very unusual sabbatical into societal upheaval. If I have unintentionally hurt or missed the mark with any of you, please let me know compassionately, so we may move into this next year with a more open heart together. If we can strengthen our own connections to each other, please let our Membership Team and I know better ways to do so or ways you can better support, engage and encourage each other. These are indeed the times we were made for and the times that are forging who we are becoming!


Elul tov v’Shanah Tovah U’Mitukah--wishing all of us and our precious world renewal, reawakening and repair in the month of ElulRosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and the year ahead.


NOTE: In entering the month of Elul we explore some ways of responding to our times (check out our recorded Elul program from our Live and Learn on-line series).



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