04 August 2016
Earlier this week, I was in Aspen, CO, for a conference organized by the Harold Grinspooon Foundation. Harold is the visionary philanthropist who dreamed up PJ Library® ten years ago. He believed that Jewish children should enjoy good Jewish children’s books, and began by sending them to 200 children in Western Massachusetts. Today, PJ Library mails 150,000 books a month throughout North America, and, in partnership with The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and generous donors, more than 5,300 of those are being mailed to 198 zip codes throughout the Washington metro area, free of charge to the families. But PJ Library is more than just books. It is an extraordinarily effective way of engaging Jewish families with young children and introducing them to our community through exciting and relevant programming offered by our partner synagogues and agencies.
While I was in Aspen, I took some time to hike in the magnificent mountains. The views are breathtaking, and I couldn’t wait to get to the next overlook, which would surely yield yet another picture-worthy moment. But the camera cannot possibly do it justice: the skies are too large, the mountains too tall, the vistas too amazing. So despite my desire to capture it all with my camera, I often found myself just taking it in, wondering if this is what heaven looks like. Then I remembered the Field of Dreams quote:
John Kinsella: Is this heaven?
Ray Kinsella: It’s Iowa.
John Kinsella: Iowa? I could have sworn this was heaven.
[starts to walk away]
Ray Kinsella: Is there a heaven?
John Kinsella: Oh yeah. It’s the place where dreams come true.
[Ray looks around, seeing his wife playing with their daughter on the porch]
Ray Kinsella: Maybe this is heaven.
Dreams coming true is what makes heaven real, not location. It’s the health of our loved ones, the ideals we set for ourselves and the people we’re with.
In this week’s Torah portions, Matot-Masei, the Israelites stand on the precipice of the original “Field of Dreams,” the Promised Land, and Moses recounts the 42 stops the Children of Israel made during their 40-year journey in the desert. The recitation of each stop, a veritable photo album of the journey, is spelled out for the reader, as if to say, every step we take along the path is an important part of the journey. While we’re moving toward our dreams, paying attention to the intermediate stops is critical to our appreciation of the ultimate view.
Building community is a lot like building a field of dreams. If we are successful, we tell ourselves, “they will come.” And indeed, they might. But being aware of each step along the way and especially of each person we bring along on the journey, will help ensure that we get there. And when we do, we will not be alone to enjoy the view. Instead, we will be in the company of many others. To continue with this analogy, please join us on August 28 for Federation’s Grand Slam Sunday: Jewish Community Day at Nationals Park, our local “Field of Dreams.” Come with your family, your friends, your synagogues and agencies, to be together as a community. I promise you a great view!