Dear Friends,

A belated L’shanah Tovah to all of you! I was so disappointed to be unable to celebrate the High Holy Days with all of you. Certainly, I want to thank everyone who pitched in (especially at the last minute) to lead services and make sure everything happened on schedule – even if not as planned. And to everyone who contributed meals, cards, or just get-well-soon wishes, thank you!

It has been a long time since I spent the entirety of the holidays as a Jew in the pew, or our guest room, as it was. I was moved by the melodies and the readings. The sermons and speeches inspired me as well. But the spirit of community was what I will be taking away from this experience. I heard it in the messages from Tova and Alexa as they delivered the President and Treasurer’s speeches. I heard it in the prayers, where we asked as a collective for forgiveness or admitted our failings not individually, but as a group.

But perhaps it was just being away from my community that drove home just how important it is. Nothing can take the place of someone looking you in the eye and speaking from their heart. There is a feeling, being in a room full of people, even if you do not actually shake their hands or hug them.

Considering all of these feelings, I have two hopes for the community in the coming year. First, I hope that we can all stay healthy and gather together safely. For me, this means I will continue to wear a mask whenever possible. It also means that when I am feeling unwell, I will do my best to not fight through it but to take a break or rest when I need it and to ensure if I am sick, I do not pass it along to anyone else. Second, I hope that all of you will do what you can to help protect our community. It is an incredibly small but important task to help keep others safe.

It is my job to care for this community. It has taken me all of the Days of Awe (and then some) to realize that there are lessons in my absence. Maybe it was getting confidence in doing something unfamiliar or being supportive of someone in way over their head. Maybe it was just how important it is to keep ourselves and others safe and healthy. Maybe it was just how wonderful and powerful community can be. I know I learned a lot about these things while I was sidelined. I hope that you were able to learn as well. And I hope that you are inspired and energized and that your love of and commitment to our incredible community is stronger than ever.

Rabbi Benjamin