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Editor’s Note: This speech was originally given on the first day of Rosh Hashanah (Sept 2021)
Last year I spoke to you about being a community even though we were gathering only virtually. This year I want to build on that as I stand before you whether we are together in our social hall, the tent or you are viewing virtually. I ask you to focus on our capacity for resilience and redirection not only as a Jewish people but as our Shomrei Community.
Resilience is the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Being resilient does not mean that people don’t experience stress, emotional upheaval, and suffering. … Resilient people or communities tap into their strengths and support systems to overcome challenges and work through problems. More succinctly, the Merriam Webster dictionary explains resilience as being able to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens. Our Shomrei community is the ultimate support system and that happens because of the dedication of so many of you.
Last year we thought that the times were difficult, and I do not believe that anyone could imagine the impact of the pandemic on each and every one of us. But we are resilient, and we are continuously redirecting and reinventing ourselves and even as the latest variant is plaguing us, I am filled with joy that we are together, albeit in a less than perfect way but then we live in a less than perfect world. In fact, many of us are here at Shomrei together for the first time in well over a year – I think it is closer to 18 months and we have a lot of people that have made that happen. In a way, we have found our way home.
Taking this a bit further, I am reminded of the word Hineni – Here I am. While I am not a scholar of the torah in any way I know that we read about the binding of Isaac on Rosh Hashanah and Abraham being tested. Abraham says to G-d – Heneni – Here I am. Our Mahzor explains that an overarching theme of the Torah readings on Rosh Hashanah is life’s fragility (you can find it on page 103) and we certainly have experienced that this year.
But Hineni – Here I am – Hinei Anahnu – Here we are. We were tested this past year in so many ways both spiritually and physically. Every time we seemed to take a step forward, we were faced with an obstacle – some large, some small. At times it seemed as if we would never be able to see our friends or pray in person. We faced one hurdle or complication after another and when we thought we finally got to the other side, COVID surged, we experienced fear, loneliness, love and support as well as the impact of extreme weather. Not everything was bad however, sometimes it was just different.
We learned to be resilient and to redirect our efforts. We continued to hold services, share life events, attend classes, hold interesting programs, and help those in need. The preschool was open and it was great to hear the laughter of our children in the classrooms and our JLC, while mostly remote found ways to help our children embrace Judaism and learn in new ways.
Hineni – Here I am – Hinei Anachnu – Here we are. I am pleased to report that Shomrei is financially strong as a result of so many of you saying – Here I am – by making a commitment to our Sustaining Share campaign. We have a little over 200 households and are working to attract new members and volunteers. We can only continue to offer the myriad of programs that you have come to expect with your financial support, regardless of the amount.
We are making some improvements to the building and have upgraded our air conditioning. For those in the building, I hope you have found it comfortable.
We also have a new Director of Operations in our office, Ehud Klinger and I hope you stop in and introduce yourself. I know the year ahead has change in store for us, but I am so thankful to Rabbi Greenstein for his leadership, and we plan to celebrate him throughout the coming year.
Let’s all say Hineni – Here I am – Hinei Anachnu – Here we are – and take some time this holiday to be fully present, emotionally, and spiritually and support each other. It is that support that makes us resilient, regardless of the challenge or test we face. Let’s try to rediscover ourselves a bit and to discover the amazing strength of this community.
I hope that we will be able to gather without restrictions and welcome everyone back to shul soon, but we will only do that when we can do so safely. As we begin a new year, I ask you to say Hineni – Here I am. It takes volunteers and commitment to make it all happen.
So to close, thank you to Rabbi Greenstein and Morah Lily and to all of you for being here and leading us through this year.
L’Shana Tovah from my family to yours.