Every year, we joke about the timing of the Jewish holidays and the fact that they are either early or late. This year, the holidays seem to be particularly early. While we are still enjoying some lovely late summer heat, I find myself thinking and planning for the holidays.
This planning entails not only the logistics of hosting a growing family, as children, nieces and nephews add new members to our entourage through marriage, but also because the start of the Jewish new year is always an occasion to thoughtfully reflect on our personal life and also on our connection to community, and how we can build on last year's accomplishments.
This year, as I embark on my term as Chair of Jewish Federations of Canada - UIA, I am acutely aware of fact that at the end of the day, it is a sense of belonging to a people with an unparalleled history of survival and achievement that connects us.
Regardless of where you live in Canada, whether your local Jewish community numbers 20 or 200,000, or how you personally express your Judaism, each of the almost 400,000 Canadian Jews is an intrinsic part of the global Jewish community - one that knows no boundaries or borders.
As a community spread across the globe, the Jewish people share not only the generic requirements of a community like common attitudes, interests, and goals. We are bound to each other by common history, shared values and an inherent desire to make our world a better place.
When I was in Israel this past June for the Keren Hayesod and Jewish Agency meetings, I attended a lecture by American-Israeli Daniel Gordis, author, speaker and Senior Vice President at Shalem College in Jerusalem.
I had previously heard him speak during my participation in the Wexner Heritage program so I was delighted to see his name on the list of speakers. As many of you know, Gordis speaks both eloquently and rapidly, firing off commentary at lightning speed.
Following the lecture, during a Q&A period, a young man said that he was struggling with a decision. He had come to Israel on a MASA Israel program and was now trying to decide about making Aliyah. He asked how Gordis had personally made the decision to officially move to Israel.
Gordis responded by telling the young man to ask himself 2 questions:
- What change do I wish to make on the planet?
- Which place will allow me to accomplish that?
It strikes me that these are extremely valid questions for each of us to ask ourselves, not only in exceptional situations like that of this young man, but in our everyday life. How can we arrange our lives so that our goals and visions become accomplishments?
The high holidays serve as an annual opportunity to unlock our potential. As we approach the Jewish New Year, I am considering how I can make a meaningful difference to the communities of which I am a member. How can I contribute to someone else's life by making a positive difference, even in a small way?
I encourage you to take time over the next couple of weeks to join me in this introspective exercise. Individual actions and initiatives have more influence and greater power when they are coordinated in concert with like minded people. When each of us does our part, the positive impact of our efforts on the community is significantly augmented than when we act alone.
From my family to yours, all the best wishes for a Shana Tova. May you be inscribed for a sweet and healthy year.
Julia Berger Reitman
Chair, Jewish Federations of Canada - UIA