14 October 2022
As we settle into another year of our collective journey, the news cycle and the world around us remain intense. Our community continues to experience rising hatred and antisemitism shared by individuals and governments with large global platforms — views that, far too often, are ignored or minimized by others in public or influential positions. At the same time, Israel continues to establish more stable and fruitful partnerships with other countries in the region, as seen by this week’s historic agreement between Israel and Lebanon on maritime borders. This enormous step builds upon the success of the Abraham Accords and will further strengthen Israel’s and the region’s security and economy.
This tension between joy and fragility is particularly apt during the current season. The holiday of Sukkot is also called z’man simchatenu, the season of our rejoicing. It is a time of joy, yet we are commanded to eat and sleep in a sukkah, a temporary, precarious shelter. What does it mean to be joyful but also recognize the fragility of every moment? How do we celebrate and continue to build a vibrant, resilient community while never forgetting the challenges we face individually and as a community?
Navigating how to simultaneously celebrate and appreciate our fragility can be difficult, but I’ve repeatedly returned to what we learned during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic — the critical importance of opening ourselves up to others by building connection and community.
During Sukkot, many Jews, including my family, create this sense of community, belonging, and resilience in a sukkah; deepening connections with those who join us while simultaneously recognizing our shared vulnerability. We sit in the sukkah together, embracing our past, present, and collective future in an unpredictable world — a commitment to build a collective future even in the face of significant uncertainties.
The sukkah, however, is not the only mechanism we have for this. Throughout our community, we repeatedly find ways to celebrate our strength while continuing to address our most critical challenges. We face the rise of antisemitism with the recognition that we must challenge it head on. We do not shy away from recognizing financial vulnerability within the Jewish community but develop new, collective efforts to support those in need among us. Jewish Greater Washington is a place to both celebrate and recognize our ongoing responsibilities to one another; a space that enables us to rejoice and meet our most pressing issues head-on; and a community that holds one another mutually accountable for the outcomes.
Each day, amidst the turmoil of the world around us, I am heartened to witness how we foster this sense of responsibility throughout Greater Washington. Your commitment to one another, to building a vibrant Jewish future locally and around the world, and to addressing our most critical needs are reasons to celebrate — today and long after we conclude this season of rejoicing. Thank you for uplifting our Jewish community and each other.
Chag Sameach (Happy Holiday) and Shabbat Shalom,
P.S. I invite you to join me for a very special virtual cooking demonstration on Wednesday, October 19th at 7:30 PM with James Beard Foundation Award-winning chef, Michael Solomonov, in conversation with Amy Zitelman, CEO of Soom Foods. I will also be sharing my favorite fall recipe! Register here.
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