Wednesday, May 10, 2017
Being Jewish In your Heart
Dear Family and Friends:
Well, this blog of mine seems to have reached a sort of milestone. As of today it has been opened 60,540 times. Thanks to Linda Ross Brenner who started me on this path a couple of years ago (she argued. "you need a blog to preserve all of your 'Staff Letters' for your grandchildren." How could I refuse?). So for the sake of nostalgia, even though it isn't throw back Thursday, here's the first old Staff Letter...or the oldest i could find.
Dear G.U.C.I. Staff:
Now that most of us are back to it in the world of school and work, footballs
are (thank goodness) finally flying, and thoughts of last summer surround
themselves with a hazy glow, it may be an appropriate time to consider our own
personal religious connections. For me, the autumn (perhaps my favorite season
of the year) is a season of conflict. On the one hand, it is such a colorful
season and vigorous time of the year that I feel uplifted, kind of ready to
start tackling the challenges and opportunities of the next camp year. On the
other hand however, I most certainly feel a Jewish letdown with the ending of
camp and all of its intensity and spirit. These mixed feelings have led me to
thoughts concerning our ongoing Jewish connections and commitments.
I have often heard the saying "It's hard to be Jewish," and accepted it as a
matter of fact. Now I wonder if that acceptance isn't just an excuse to lay
off some of the burdens of Jewish living. It is hard to be Jewish because we
have to go out of our way to be it. I think this is especially true for those
of us living on campus. As I recall, my undergraduate years were almost a
complete vacation from Jewish activity. During those years, camp was my
"Jewish fix" and had to last me from one summer to the next. My new found
college "freedom" allowed me to exercise a certain rebellion against anything
"organized" and/or "institutional" like my synagogue, or even Shabbat services
on campus. Looking back on that time now, I realize that those feelings
created a void in my life that even camp couldn't fill.
The Rabbis tell us that one cannot be Jewish alone; that a Jew must be a part
of his or her Jewish community. The great Rabbi Hillel taught, "Do not
separate yourself from the community." I would argue that one must be able to
first be Jewish alone, before he/she can really connect with the community.
Being Jewish in your own heart and mind, carrying with you a sense of
Jewishness, yes, even "Looking at the world through Jewish eyes," is the first
essential ingredient in that catch-all phrase we use so often, "Jewish
I hope that the spirit and sense of community we built together at
camp this summer helps each of us feel Jewish in our hearts and minds. But I
also agree that this is not enough. Ultimately the Rabbis are correct. Jews
need other Jews. Consider sharing your Jewishness with others. Just as it is
at camp, your own spirit can be renewed and enhanced when it is shared.
As the High Holy Days approach, I hope you will think of the warm and wonderful
Jewish community we created together this summer at G.U.C.I. I also hope that
same spirit will move you to make your place among our extended Jewish family.
Along with many of the important things life has to offer us, being a part of
Klal Yisrael can be most fulfilling. When it is, being Jewish ceases to be a
burden and becomes a gift.
I wish you and your family all the best in the coming new year. L'Shannah Tova,