Hashiveynu: Conscious Return

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Hashiveynu: Conscious Return

Lo-nayda mah-na’avod et-Yah ad-bo’aynu shama

We will not know how we will best serve YHVH until we get there. (Exodus 10:26)


We do not know what form our service will take, what the world will be like or what will be called from us. The world is in flux and our lives are also changing moment to moment. We just do not know.

Not-knowing can be terrifying and yet it also holds the infinite potential of our power and creativity. We can only prepare for this mystery by becoming fully present, by accessing the fullness of Being in this moment, and knowing that when we are called, we will respond with that fullness. On this journey to freedom, we must dare to live in a place of uncertainty that is held inside the confidence that just showing up in our fullness and in our uniqueness is enough.

We will not know what is needed until we get there. Each moment is a new “there.” -- Rabbi Shefa Gold. After a grueling and galvanizing year, we have arrived at the mezuzah, the liminal space, the doorway to regathering and slowly reclaiming in-person connection. It is a time of hope, confidence, and excitement, also fraught with more complexity, anxiety, and required volunteer and staff time and energy than even before. We continue to find our stride through on-line means (many of which will continue through the summer and into next year), informal in-person gatherings and hoped for official regathering events over time.

Often, we see transitional times as transactional or even inconsequential doorways to simply pass through onto the next destination, moment, or experience. Jewish spiritual tradition takes the word for movement- “zuz” and turns it from an active verb to a noun with the adding of the prefix “mem”- creating “mezuzah” or doorway. This is where we lift our eyes, hands, and with awareness (“VAV consciousness”) and pause, reflect with intention, while asking who we are and how will we enter this next room, or place, or state of being with the highest relational and respectful intent.

We are entering this phase of our individual and communal lives for an undetermined period of time,  understanding we may have to move back and forth to be as caring, safe, and considerate as we need to be. As we do so we may occasionally find ourselves grappling with polarities of progression-regression, isolation- connection, and so on as we explore ways of regathering and also restructuring and renewing our communal experiences.

Listen deeply to each other without rationalizing or defending. Open into our own broken hearted-ness and determined hopefulness before each action.

Acknowledge and be with numbness, fears, hopes, enthusiasms and longing without shame and blame, while taking responsibility for and monitoring our intent and reactions.

We have accomplished so much through your generosity of time and resources this past year- exceeding our dues goals; coming within reach of our ReGenerations campaign goal thanks to half of our 220 plus households; receiving federal and foundation support; expanding our membership access points on-line and more.

With the support of our Hebrew school families, education committee and leadership, and under the current and future leadership of Gabby Kaplan-Mayer and next year with Gabby, Holli Goldenberg, and our amazing teachers, we will be shifting our Sunday section of Hebrew school to Shabbat in the coming year. Adult Education and Library Committee offerings, Israel- Palestine, POWER multi-faith justice campaigns, Immigration and Refugee support, Torah study, services and spiritual practice offerings,  and fundraising efforts----all have been expanded, renewed, and revitalized in a pandemic on-line program year.

Now, with some fatigue and tension, as well as relief and energy, we are collaboratively moving forward together. Our “Hashiveynu - Returning and Regathering Task Force”, with input from other leadership is working hard to help us move into this new phase, into and ultimately through the mezuzah/doorway ahead. With the cooperation of the weather, we are excited about regathering in both person and with zoom access on Friday, July 23 for Shabbat Under the Stars outside at Mishkan, as we explore both communal regathering and informal clusters of connection in the months ahead.

In May, some Hebrew school families gathered in each other's backyards to celebrate the end to their school year.  Some of you who have been vaccinated are safely celebrating Shabbat again with others.

Rabbi Yael and I, the High Holy Day team, coordinated by Holli Goldenberg, and Spiritual Life Council are now planning some combination of on-line and in-person High Holy Day offerings as long as it remains safe to do so.

We are looking at the arrival of 5782 and beyond: when we return together for Shabbat in the fall, our Hebrew School will begin meeting on Shabbat mornings as well-which is the way we began Jewish education at Mishkan at its founding.

All of this to support, engage and encourage our connections in forward-looking, expanded ways as a sacred and diverse community in person and with on-line access for local full members, on-line visitors, and the newly created digital membership category for those who live outside of the Philadelphia area.

Please invite a friend or neighbor to a service or program and let us keep growing together. We all are members of the in-reach/outreach team- it is in one-to-one relationship building that community happens, that social change occurs, and true transformation is possible.

I want to personally thank our tireless Executive Committee: President Steve Jones, outgoing Treasurer Ellen Steiker, and Secretary Homer Robinson and the rest of the committed and thoughtful board and committees for their leadership and tireless commitment to our community’s thriving. I especially want to offer hoda’ot/gratitude to Seth Horwitz, Roz Spigel and Ellen Steiker who are cycling off the board after guiding us with years of their wisdom and along with so many of you who have been leading, supporting, and participating  in Mishkan activities, helped lead us to a new place of stability and poised for the future that is coming our way!

A deep bow in gratitude to all our small staff: Maria Paranzino, Lynn Edelman (six months in), Rabbi Yael Levy, Gabby Kaplan Mayer, and our wonderful teachers (Amy, Cantor David, Holli, and Julia) for continued “Samsonian” efforts especially this last year when all of us stretched beyond capacity to serve our shared sacred community from our various homes across the city.

Especially In times like these, we look to one another for support and wisdom, to our Jewish and other faith traditions for guidance, and to all Earth.  Were are here for one another.

We step mindfully into the mezuzah- the doorway into new growth and change and also reclaim and see afresh familiar landscapes. Whether on-line or in person in the months ahead- I look forward to sharing the journey with you.

“The kind of hope I think about…a state of mind, not a state of the world…it’s not essentially dependent on some particular observation of the world or estimate of the situation. Hope is an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart; it transcends the world that is immediately experienced and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizons. Hope, in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well...but, rather, an ability to work for something because it is good..."  Vaclav Havel


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