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What do you love about the Jewish community? -- Shabbat Message 4/17/2015

Posted on 04/17/2015 @ 02:00 AM

A few weeks ago, I began a term serving as a member of my synagogue’s Board of Directors. One of our responsibilities is to take turns on different Shabbat mornings representing the Board to the congregation, which seems to mostly entail making the announcements between Tefillah and the Kiddush luncheon. Following a training with Dr. Ron Wolfson a few weeks ago (Dr. Ron Wolfson’s Relational Judaism is the ultimate blend of MRIHA and Jewish Community, by the way), a task was added to our list: Before we announce next week’s events and deadlines, we should share a thought about why we love our synagogue to help build connections with the congregants.

It so happens that on this Shabbat, a member of the congregation was home from college visiting and decided to attend services. You might have heard of her – her name is Rachel Beyda and she was recently appointed to the Judicial Board at UCLA, amid a host of controversy and what seemed to be some pretty serious Anti-Semitism on the part of several student leaders (click for the story if you didn’t read it yet).

Rachel was called up for an Aliyah during the Torah service and as I watched her participate in the ritual, I found my mind racing: thinking about what we do to prepare our teens for what may await them on campus, but also about all of the roles we prepare them to play as leaders and participants in our communities. While Rachel served as a role model and example for so many people, the role of college student coming back to her home congregation and participating actively in Shabbat experience was just as significant. Congregations need to see their young members actively involved to stay relevant, vibrant and growing. Further, how often do we find ourselves trying to identify famous Jewish role models for our teens and wishing that they played an active role in Jewish life that we could reference? In that moment, I felt more grateful to Rachel for the impact she was having with her Torah blessings than anything else.

And so this is what I spoke about that morning: What I love about my synagogue, but really about the greater Jewish community, is that we each have so many roles to play: Leader, member of a Jewish family, teacher, professional contributor, participant…and each contribution matters. As we celebrate the Shabbat between Yom HaShoah and Yom Ha’Atzmaut, we find ourselves in a time where past events and present climate collide. We are forced to acknowledge not just history, but also the current challenges our people are facing around both Anti-Semitism and what it means to have a relationship with our homeland. We are charged with remembering, celebrating, and maybe being activists too, which begs the question: What are we each doing to fulfill our different roles? And what are we doing to engage our teens with them?

We have a responsibility to teach our teens not only to be strong leaders and to build their skills, but to be active participants, so that they’ll make great student government leaders, entrepreneurs and CEOs, but also so that they are the ones out there serving as members of the minyan, voting on issues that matter, and helping their peers see the best parts of who we are as a people. It is all of these things that will keep our community thriving and that will carry us from darker times to times of celebration and – hopefully – of peace.

(This Shabbat message was written by Jill Pottel, Senior Regional Director of Central Region West)

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