Sign In Forgot Password

Ringing in the New Year

08/11/2021 01:22:47 PM


I received a call from a young man last week who I haven’t always known as a young man. What I mean is, I’ve known him since he started at Journey when he was probably in 4th or 5th grade.  Over time, he became a Bar Mitzvah and stayed involved afterwards for a little while, but then got involved with high school and after school jobs, and soon he will be starting his freshman year studying engineering. He called me, as he has kept in touch a bit on and off over the years, to connect once again, and to share with me that he will soon be starting his freshman year and specifically to thank me for all I did as his rabbi. He talked about how I have regularly gone out of my way to make sure that he had a Jewish education and successfully completed his Bar Mitzvah, which for him, was definitely not a foregone conclusion.  He was effusive with his compliments, but I do not share them with you to boast, most especially because I most certainly cannot and do not accept all the credit.  Nonetheless, I was very moved by his spontaneous gratitude-filled phone call, as it reminded me of two critical pieces that I believe make up the DNA of Shma Koleinu.

Firstly, cooperative volunteerism: Journey has never happened without remarkably giving volunteers. Allow me to name them: Harry Selig, Sandy Boccara, Margi Levin, Laurie Gass, Geri Snider, Jay Goldberg, Jennifer Maldonato, Mitzi Levine, Joe Sears, Cynthia Gbadebo, Amy Miller, Julie Freidkin, Ann Guillerman, Sacha Bodner, Nomi Solomon, and Jeanne Saletan.  Their presence over the years, the love they have shown our children, the joy they have taken at a Shabbat upon witnessing the children’s becoming B’nai Mitzvah – they have embodied the practice of V’ahavta l’rei-echa kamocha, “Loving one’s neighbor as herself.”

Second, offering gratitude as a practice: I don’t know exactly what motivated this young man to call me to express his thanks for all I (We) did, but it reminded me of a key piece of what should be a part of our Elul practice.  This month should not just be filled with introspection and self-reflection that leads to efforts of teshuvah (shifting our behavior to become the better version of ourselves).  Gratitude, recognition, and the counting of our blessings should lead the way as well.  Otherwise, how do we know what is the good stuff we wish would continue (and our role in making that happen)?

Thank you to this young man whose phone call lifted my spirits, and I hope yours as well.  Shma Koleinu continues to do a really important thing – and that is, with no holds barred, making Judaism immanently accessible, non-judgmental and embracing to all Jews, Jewish families, and those who love them.

Wed, August 17 2022 20 Av 5782