This is one of the latter

Over the years I have had people ask me, “Do you subscribe to a service for your column?”  No I don’t, although it would be nice if someone could write in “my voice.”  Others have asked, “When do you have time to write them?”  Usually, in terror on Friday afternoon, just before they go out (it is often the reason there may be typos or non sequiturs  - no time to proofread).

Sometimes the topic is obvious, other times, a little more esoteric.  Sometimes when I sit down to reflect on the weekly missive I struggle with what to write about; other times I have multiple ideas in my head….this is one of the latter.

Jewish Holidays
The holiday of Sukkot begins this Monday evening at sundown.  Unique in many ways, Sukkot is the only festival on the Jewish calendar that is referred to as “Zman Simchateinu,” the time of happiness.

Sukkot is the one of the three festivals on the calendar (Passover and Shavuot being the others).  It is a commemoration of the homes that our ancestors lived in during the 40 years in the desert.  It celebrates the yearly harvest which happens in the Fall.

Many families build their own sukkah at home and/or visit other family’s sukkah.  It is tradition to invite guests to join in a holiday meal.  I can’t help reflect on how very cold it was having dinner in a friend’s sukkah in New Hampshire.  While it may have only been mid-October, as the sun set, we could feel the winter chill setting in.  With the early holidays this year and our very temperate weather, this should be a wonderful opportunity to gather together (taking appropriate care in these “COVID days”).  While our gatherings may be more modest, the spirit and joy of the holiday is upon us.

JEA Gala
Each year in the late Summer/early Fall, the JEA has its annual fundraiser.  While the Gala is vitally important to the Alliance’s budget—it provides most of the funds for scholarship for Preschool, Children’s activities, Camp Savannah, and Membership.  YOU help us to provide for those who can not afford fees and membership. Funds raised from last year’s Gala were even more important as they helped subsidize many families who had the unplanned additional cost of All Days at the J Distant Learning program as their children were challenged with virtual school.  At a time when parents were “at the end of their rope,” your support provided a lifeline and allowed them to continue working while their children were well cared for.

One of the other goals of the annual Gala is to provide a fun, social opportunity for people to come together.  Like the Labor Day holiday and the Jewish holidays, we know that summer is over when the JEA has their Gala.  While last year’s virtual Gala was very successful, thanks to your loyal support, this year we are taking the bold step of bringing people together…albeit, outside and distanced.  We recognize that everyone is not comfortable getting together (yet), but for those who are, it will be a wonderful event…for a wonderful cause…our Alliance. 

Event Chair, Robyn Carroll has been a blur of activity for weeks as she and her committee have done a great job preparing for the event (BIG THANK YOUs to Gala Committee members Melinda Byck, Carole Cohen, Rachael Currie, Sarah Denmark, Roxanne Formey, Cookie Gale, Bianca Hollander, Jonathan Javetz, Garrett Kaminsky, Dayle Levy, Arlene Ratner, Lewis Schneider, Erin Wessling, Ashley Yellin, and staff members Sunny Nayberg and Jami Richman who have been “living Gala” for the past weeks).

Shmita year
Did you realize that September 7th began a Shmita year. Shmita (‘Shnat Shmita” in Hebrew) is a Sabbatical year.  Literally meaning “release,” every seven years, fields and farmland in Israel are left to lie fallow- unploughed, unsown, and unharvested in order to allow the land to rest. 

As a youngster in Hebrew School our teacher likened it to Shabbat for the Land.  As we toil for six days and rest on Shabbat, so do we treat the land and let it rest every seventh year.

Shmita is first referenced in the Book of Exodus and discussed in the Mishnah and Talmud and while is continues to be a real part of the religious, agricultural and economic reality in today’s Israel, it has another dimension.  Many point to Shmita as one of the first environmental warnings:  If we fail to plan, if we fail to be responsible stewards of the earth, we risk a future without the bountiful resources we’ve become accustomed to.  Rabbis have posited that the clear message in the Torah is that if we ignore God’s will to care for the earth, we risk losing everything in the future.

What’s Next?
The entire community is invited to take part in the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly, Sunday, October 3, from 2-3:30pm.  The last year has seem dramatic events with far-reaching consequences for Jews around the world, from the Pandemic to rocket attacks in Israel and a significant uptick in Antisemitism.   But once again we have shown that when we work together, we can tackle anything.  Together we can answer the question: What’s next?

Please join the conversation as we reflect, learn, and explore several key areas of Jewish community life at this critical time.  Assembling together, even virtually, is a powerful way to inspire, recognize, and support one another as we prepare for the year ahead.

Click here to register for the 2021 GA.

Community Survey
Joy Goldstein, the consultant who authored the community survey reported that over 250 members of the community have filled out the online survey thus far.  It’s a good start, but only a start.  We know that you are bombarded by online requests, but this one is vitally important to set the direction of the community for the coming years.  Please, if you haven’t already done so, click here to fill out the survey (and have your partner do the same).
Wishing you a peaceful and meaningful Shabbat