These are difficult times. As our financial markets continue to nosedive, we are forced to find new resources of strength to pull ourselves up out of the abyss. In a world of individuals, we might expect to do this alone. Circle the wagons and protect your own. Survival of the fittest.
But Judaism teaches a different way. We hold each other up like we hold up Torah.
Two teachings, actually. First Talmud teaches Kol yisrael areivim zeh bazeh – all Jews are responsible for one another, reminding us that we will never be alone. Because we are responsible for helping each other. Since communal ties are stronger than individual pain, we are commanded to hold each other up through the most stressful of times. Then we learn from Torah, tzedek tzedek tirdof – justice, justice you shall pursue. The doubling of the word tzedek (justice) reminds us that pursuing justice is paramount. We seek social justice when times are good AND we seek social justice when times are bad. A difficult economy provides no excuse to shirk our responsibilities. We care because we care. Both for for those we know and for those we do not.
Thus Congregation Or Ami has been enacting our own Jewish Spiritual Stimulus Package, a comprehensive plan to reach out to congregants. Supported by our Board of Directors, this Stimulus Package includes no pork. Rather our Stimulus Package addresses three goals: (1) to provide real resources for job acquisition, financial relief and mental/physical health; (2) to offer low/no cost activities for individuals and families to break the isolation brought on by crisis; and (3) to utilize all forms of communication (high tech internet and low tech one-on-one conversations) to reach out, check in and take care of our congregant community.
For a community that values B’tzelem Elohim (we are created in God’s image), that we are each valued, and in Petucha (openness), where we courageously talk about the difficult truths in life, this Jewish Spiritual Stimulus Package answers the call of Henaynu, that we are there for each other through both joyous and difficult times. May we weather the storm together. Remember, I am always here to listen and help.
In response to this article, I received an email:
I wanted to thank you for your inspiring article this month. I always find your words meaningful and empowering but this month really touched a chord.
We also so appreciated getting a call from a congregation member asking how we were doing. It meant a great deal.
As you are so aware, this is hard times for everyone. It is wonderful to know that there is a caring community there to help and to listen.
I wish you and your family a wonderful Pesach and Shabbat Shalom.
I forwarded this email, anonymously, to Or Ami’s Board and Staff with the following message:
She is specifically referring to my article in the bulletin. But understand this…
After 16 years in the rabbinate, I have learned that the rabbi often comes to personify the community/institution. While this congregant is thanking ME for MY article, she is also thanking this congregation, its leadership and staff for all of our efforts to reach out to people during these hard times.
She is thanking:
- The people who made calls for/with Kim Gubner to check on people
- The people who have hosted hikes, and adult gatherings, job search assistance, and no cost childcare and…
- The people who have caringly dealt with those who cannot pay their commitments
- The people who warmly welcome others coming into services, to programs, on the phone
- The people who take the occasional abuse from others because the stress is so great, it must spill over somewhere
- The people who wrote articles, blurbs, announcements which communicate our caring and outreach.
- The people who … are you!
Thank you for all you are doing to make sure our Jewish Spiritual Stimulus package is successful in touching people’s lives during these difficult times.
You all – staff, board, clergy, interns – and everyone in between. You are amazing, and I am proud to be part of this community.
To which Or Ami’s Board and Staff members responded with the following comments:
- I feel such a sense of pride for Or Ami as we all do and it shows in all that we are and what we do!
- Everyone is so very supportive and caring for each other. We have such a wonderful home at Or Ami.
- It is truly an HONOR to be part of this amazing community! Let’s keep this feeling forever, no matter how large Or Ami grows!
- Thanks for great leadership, to the Or Ami Team, all of you are great which is the reason we joined, got involved and have stayed. We don’t just say we are a warm loving community we show it in our actions day to day. A nicer group of people you could not find anywhere. My life has been enriched through our membership at Or Ami and most importantly building friendships and relationships with so many of you.
How enriching that a Jewish Spiritual Stimulus Package has touched many: those who are receiving its assistance, those who are watching from the sidelines, and those who are responsible for delivering the assistance!