Editor’s Note: This speech was originally given on the first day of Rosh Hashanah (Sept 2020)
Today I want to speak to you about how we are doing as a Shomrei Community. While we may each recite our prayers individually, we gain strength as we come together whether virtually or in person. Together we will start the New Year stronger than ever. I want to ask all of you to think about how we came together over the past several months and how we are together on this day of Rosh Hashanah. Know that even in the virtual service you use the plural “we” in so many of our prayers. Know that someone else in their home, although not physically next to you is doing the same thing and sharing in the experience which is so important to all of us.
When I accepted the job as President of the synagogue, COVID-19 was something that I read about in the newspaper and was a world away. Social distancing was not in our vocabulary and online programs were something I attended from time to time but certainly was not a daily event. I did not envision a time when we would not be able to be together physically to worship, celebrate and hug one another. But we do have so much to celebrate as our community is strong and we have supported each other as we find creative ways to connect. We have reached out to one another, made numerous phone calls to check on each other and shared important life events. We must continue to take these actions.
When I think of celebrating Rosh Hashanah, I think of the prayer Ha Yom (you can find it on page 170 in the Machzor). Growing up, this was always my favorite. In fact, pretty much every year at Shomrei since we joined in 1986, my husband David and I have opened the ark before we sing this prayer.
I am not sure whether I loved the prayer so much because it meant that services were about to end and I could go home, take off my holiday clothes (yes, we used to get new outfits every year) and eat my mother’s wonderful holiday meal that always started with apples and honey or, whether I loved this prayer because of its uplifting tune and message asking to be inscribed in the book of life. I still love to sing Ha Yom on the holidays and while we cannot sing together, my family will be thinking of all of you as we sing it at home.
I remember looking around the Shul, taking in the community and hearing so many voices. The Shul was my extended family and while singing Ha Yom I would always get the look (you know the look) from my mother or Marilyn Wieseneck (Todd’s mother who we lost this year. May her memory be a blessing) to pay attention and stop fidgeting. I have such fond memories of family and community during Rosh Hashanah.
So why do I bring this up? Ha Yom, translated as “on this day”, is a statement of faith that G-d will strengthen and support us. We not only face G-d on this day of judgement but we face ourselves and one another. We begin anew.
While this year has been challenging and we continue to cope with new scenarios including physical separation, our work continues. On this day “Ha Yom” and on the days following, we need our community to be a source of strength and comfort. We need to ensure the continuity of our synagogue, so it is there to broaden our knowledge, support us in times of need, be a place to introduce the next generation to Judaism and to serve as our extended family. Over the summer, we created a Moving Forward Task Force to help us navigate in these unusual times and to plan programs that meet our needs both in the short and medium term, virtually and in-person so that we may engage our community and be flexible as the environment changes. We have supported one another throughout and have come together to find new ways to build relationships and ensure the continuity of our community. We are opening our preschool with reduced capacity but are opening, nonetheless and we have a great program for our children. We are offering JLC remote education, holding @nourish programs, delivering food to those in need, davening, operating the library, zooming, and zooming, studying and also finding ways to comfort those in mourning. This only happens with your help.
I am pleased to report that even with the outbreak of COVID-19 Shomrei is strong financially as a result of so many of you making a commitment to our Sustaining Share campaign including some very generous donors. We have over 200 member 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.
This year also brought about several new costs as we invested in infrastructure, technology and cleaning so we could open our preschool, make it easier for everyone participate virtually and upgrade our facility so that when we can safely hold indoor services and events, we will be ready.
I can’t wait to welcome everyone back in our shul, but we will only do that when we can do so safely. As we begin a new year, I ask you to commit “On this day” – Ha Yom – to participating in our community. It takes volunteers and financial commitment to make it all happen.
L Shana Tovah from my family to yours.
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