This New Jewish Year: We Lift Our Eyes to Each Other and to the World

by Rabbi Shawn Zevit

Shalom and welcome back from Summer to the Jewish rhythms of a new year. This year is 5778 in the Jewish calendar. Every Hebrew letter also has a numerical value. The New Year 5778 reveals the Hebrew letters ayin and het.  Ayin can represent the first letter in the words einayim/eyes and het can lead to hayyim/ life. Keeping our Eyes/Focus on what will sustain and bring forward life, aliveness!

A year ago, as we explored the Power of the Hebrew word Ohz, “soul-strength through engagement” we built on the prior year’s “Vav Consciousness. This New Year urges us to expand our vision and focus our energy and attention on the life of our planet, communities, our Mishkan, and own souls. Our goal is to reach for clarity and insight so we can engage more fully with the expanse of life’s choices, blessings and challenges in clear, true and accountable ways.

A year ago, many of us felt poised with hope and confidence in a new era of openness, caring and equity towards a more just society and abundant society for all. We cheered that we had joined the global community to recognize and take measures to mitigate our ever-changing climate and deteriorating environment. Different outcomes awaited us on the national and statewide scene. Yet our Jewish tradition and values and our own Mishkan Shalom statement of principles, invite us to rise above cynicism or apathy and get involved in life with discernment, commitment and compassion, not despite our current circumstance, rather even more so because of them.

As we look to the year ahead, may members, committees and staff strive for the objectives Mishkan President Ellen Tichnor describes in her article on page 3.  While we will be working to support continued membership and growth, we are launching a major long-term capital campaign for the first time in many years. We will also honor our beloved Education Director and long-time member Rivka Jarosh, who is retiring at year’s end. We already have an active team and process underway to search for Rivka’s successor. With the tireless efforts of our board member, Ilene Burak, we now have new long-term leases for CB Community School and City Light Church. And with Bob Kaufman and Lance Laver’s guidance, a new expanded office space on the first floor was established for our own needs.

We are poised to move to a new phase in the life of our community. If we both continue our growth and engagement pattern, and secure funds, founding members can join the new generation of members to engage more actively in our mission and vision. Please look at the wide-array of educational and programmatic offerings coming this year and get involved in volunteering and/or participating. Our Shabbat School pilot project continues in December after a successful first year for three monthly Shabbat immersion experiences, with an additional fourth by popular demand to end the year in May. Claire Brunhild, brings an array of skills and passion to her role as rabbinic intern and teen coordinator. Members Julie Meyer and Billy Linstead-Goldsmith co-chair our revitalized Green Team and sustainability efforts as part of the HAZON Seal of Sustainability initiative.

This year we will be taking steps toward greater ownership of what the covenant of belonging means as a stakeholder in Mishkan Shalom. Many of you have been doing so since our founding with Rabbi Brian Walt in 1988. More than half of us have joined or re-joined Mishkan Shalom in the last five years, especially the last two years when we have had a net growth of membership. Thank you all; we now have a new phase of the journey to travel together.x

On Shabbat weekend of September 8 – 9, we will have an opportunity to show up with and for each other, to lean into a renewed commitment and connections with each other in a full weekend of dynamic learning, prayer, and sustenance (fulfilling our Brit Mishkan). Rabbi Yael, Claire and I will all be on hand for Kabbalat Shabbat, and Judah and new Bar Mitzvah Isaiah Weekes will be there with me to lead Shabbat morning services!

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. If I have unintentionally hurt or missed the mark with any of you, please let me know in kindness 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 me know better ways to do so or ways you can better support each other in conscious Jewish community. I always prefer face to face communication where possible.

Throughout the Days of Awe and the year ahead we will lift our eyes to life and together focus on our vision and mission on how we can act for justice, compassion and peace in the years(s) ahead. These are indeed the times we were made for!

Elul Tov v’Shanah Tovah U’Mitukah--wishing all of us and our precious world rebirth and renewal in the year ahead.


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