President Miriam Haimes’s Address on Kol Nidre 5782/2021

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Editor’s Note: This address was originally given on Kol Nidre (Sept 2021)

Heneni – A Continuation and What it Means as a Shomrei Member

Last week I spoke to you about being present spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Well, Hineni – Here I am, again. Henei Anachnu – Here we are, again. And as we begin to return to the synagogue and to gather together after being separated for so long, I want to ask you to think about reaching out and giving of yourself. I know that every year the president stands up here and asks you to volunteer and I am no different. Heneni – Here I am – asking you to look inwardly as you do teshuva and ask God for forgiveness and to think about how you can do something differently than you did this past year.

As I was trying to think about what to say I read about Maimonides’ 3 steps to teshuva that include:

  • Confessing the wrongdoing
  • Showing remorse, and
  • Making a plan so as to not repeat the action, especially if faced with similar circumstances in the future.

The process of teshuva, repentance and return, is to help people repent for what they have done wrong and then to do it better in the future or just be better in the future.

Well, I am going to take a bit of liberty here, I always do. It is not that we have done wrong necessarily but that we can do so much more right as individuals and as a community. What do I mean by that? Prayer, charity (which includes giving of oneself) and fasting are all ways of doing teshuva. As you all know, Yom Kippur is a time when we ask for forgiveness but what about asking ourselves what we can do for each other and for the continuity of our community. What about saying Hineni, Here I am – I am present. I am going to commit to do something to help our community this year.

We may be a bit hungry as we fast, but for most of us it is a temporary state. Many in our community have no food or clothing or lack the tools to make meaningful change to improve their lives.

We need you to take action. Our wonderful Mensch Squad does so many things but is always in need of volunteers. MESH, Family Promise (formerly IHN), Project Isaiah, which is a food drive for the Human Needs Food Pantry and the Refugee Assistance Group are some of the programs that help those in need and in turn, need support from our Shomrei Community. You may have seen boxes for these in the synagogue lobby. We also continue to offer virtual programs that are via Zoom so that those unable to come out can participate whether it be @Nourish, classes, study groups or our religious services. These take not only monetary commitment which clearly is important but your willingness to make them happen.

Our voluntary dues model recognizes that we all are able to contribute financially based on our own means, but everyone can volunteer in one way or another. You can visit someone or make a call to just say hello – not to sound like a broken record – but just say – Hineni. – Here I am. You can volunteer for an ongoing program or a 1-time event – we need volunteers for all these equally.

There is no special formula to what we need. If there is a program, study or discussion group or just a social get together that you want to see, STEP UP, say Hineni- Here I am and volunteer to lead it and you will be surprised how many others will join you. They will respond with Hinei Anachnu – Here we are. What a great way to gather, virtually or in person and make a difference.

We each have different skills and perspectives to offer. It just takes someone to stand up and say Hineni – Here I am and this is what we are going to do. Not everything takes a lot of time – of course some things do but if you do just a little – like Lily said last week at Rosh Hashanah – it does make a difference.

I have a few stories to tell you. We have artwork that was recently hung in the gallery, and we wanted to showcase it and have a discussion. Well with a few determined people and a few emails the program was planned in one day and we will be having a great conversation in the Sukkah next week about the artist. It took an idea and then a few people to put it together so all of us who are interested can benefit. Another story is Project Isaiah. This is a tradition at Shomrei but with the office transition and not being in person last year, somehow, we forgot to get the word out.

People are hungry, not just for the day as I mentioned before. Food insecurity is real and it is right here in our neighborhood. So again, with a minimal amount of planning, a few volunteers and determination, we are collecting the much-needed food.

The idea of repentance in Jewish thought is a return to a path of righteousness. The way I see it, what could be more righteous than helping others. While I don’t want to downplay the need for food or clothing or shelter, there is also a need to build our community and that also takes people willing to say Hineni – Here I am.

Teshuva can be done at any time, but the High Holiday season, and Yom Kippur, especially, is considered an auspicious time for it.

So please, I ask you to say Hineni – Here I am – in whatever way you can to help the Shomrei community thrive – with your time, your ideas and yes with your financial support.

I will leave you with these things to think about this Yom Kippur. And one last request, please take the time to look at the Book of Gratitude that was mailed home a few weeks ago as so many people participated in making these High Holidays special and I know that some were inadvertently left out as we went to print before the planning was complete given the changing COVID environment. I want to thank all of you for volunteering and I apologize if you were one of those that I missed.

And I am going to thank each and every one of you in advance as you STEP UP and volunteer in the coming year.

May you have an easy fast and may you be inscribed in the book of life for another year.

L’shana Tova

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