Let’s do 5769 together, not alone
by Rabbi Menachem Creditor (courtesy of the J)
The year 5769 is destined to be one of transition. There will be enough change to boggle the mind — if not stifle it.
And if the end of 5768 is any harbinger, we will need all our wits to handle the transition, to take the right path forward.
Whichever path that is, the best way to do so is communally, not individually.
In the past few months, the Bay Area has seen an influx of new leaders (rabbis, teachers, a CEO at the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation) — while in the background the country experiences economic upheaval and the political turbulence of a presidential election.
Swirling around us are differing visions of what might come next.
How can we make decisions facing, as marketing theorist Jack Trout calls it, such a "tyranny of choice"? With so much potential in the air, how can we remember the solid ground beneath our feet? Which way do we turn as the entire world, it seems, is born anew right in time for Rosh Hashanah?
I don't have answers to these questions, per se, but I have ideas and anxieties and hope — and I have my blessings. And now is as good a time as any for a blessing (if not the best time, since the High Holy Days are the rare occasion when we almost seem to gather as a community).
I bless us to remember first and foremost that tunnels and bridges allow us to join together. Traffic does not stop Jewish unity. Living in different regions of the Bay Area is no excuse not to coalesce for common cause.
The truth is, we have serious work to do.
Bay Area Jewish institutions must be or become meeting places for the affiliated, the seekers, the unaffiliated, the professionals engaged in the sacred work of strengthening Jewish connections with non-identifying Jews.
The only way we'll successfully respond to the alarmingly low affiliation rates in our community is by championing uncompromising unity and innovative Jewish education initiatives. And this will happen only if we share our Jewish world rather than divide it.
We are a strong, worthy, skilled community. And we have the means to transform those assets into higher levels of affiliation. In order to do this, each particular community must see itself as part of the whole — Orthodox is Conservative is Reform; we are nothing without each other.
We must recognize that redundancy in community organizations wastes precious resources. Partnerships between shuls, agencies and schools allow for a stronger and wider net to be cast. It's not shul against shul, agency against agency, federation against federation.
In Rabbi Hayim Herring's classic book "Jewish Networking," he reminds us that "organizations exist for people and their purposes. They exist to serve people, not the other way around. Network Judaism asks institutional leadership to examine how Jewish institutions relate to one another. Organizations that exist in a network relationship do not compete against one another, but work together to be responsive."
We should be blessed to come together whenever we can, sharing resources and thereby maximizing the impact we can have as a whole Jewish community.
I've been inspired when shuls and schools and agencies collaborate to change the world — working for Darfuri refugees, Israel and equal marriage, and against domestic violence, poverty and mental illness. These are purposes that bring us together, even when we debate. Especially when we debate.
Spirituality is meant to make a positive, practical difference in your daily life. Being a believer should strengthen your mental and physical health, augment your appreciation for life, provide a fuller sense of purpose, help you make decisions, heal and fortify your personal relationships, make you feel whole — not divided.
We share time and space as a Bay Area community. We must approach our time together with reverence, respect and care. Every public gathering should be a safe place to explore, question and test our beliefs. We must support each other in our journey.
Our synagogues face east. We share a direction. Our lives are geographically connected. We share a state, a country. We are sisters and brothers with believers in other faiths, in no God, in many Gods. We share a world.
We all have work to do.
I bless us that while alone we are strong, we remember that together we are stronger. May the year to come find us brave and wise enough to dream with our hands, fulfilling a vision together, step by step.
Rabbi Menachem Creditor
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