Community? What Community?
Mar 11th 2013

You can gain comfort in knowing that we are here for each other.

If you have faced a moment of indecision, have been challenged by a personal struggle or have had to deal with a tragedy, you can begin to understand how important it is to be connected and be part of a community. People give, respond and are at their best when they deal with other people. People develop, and those to whom we provide support when they are in need are often the ones who come first to us when we need it most. Communities—towns, villages, countries and congregations —benefit from facilitators and leaders who help guide, counsel and connect people to each other.

Wikipedia defines a community as “a social unit larger than a small village that shares common values. In human communities, intent, belief, resources, preferences, needs, risks, and a number of other conditions may be present and common, affecting the identity of the participants and their degree of cohesiveness”.

 In an age where information travels at the speed of light and social networking has all but deleted the person from personal relationships, the synagogue survives and thrives on “being there” for its members. Though not always at the forefront of our minds, in that moment when one’s world is turned upside down, there is a desperate need for guidance, support, wisdom and connected-ness. Not only but especially in times of crisis, your Beth Tzedec community and all of its resources are instantly available to you. We share a complex belief system, and substantial human and financial resources; we genuinely appreciate the needs of each other. We recognize the risks we face as a people, and those we face as a community in preserving our unique identity. Our community makes us stronger and, forged in an unshakable value system, bonds us in every powerful sense of the word.

While the significance and preciousness of our system of supports, created by our ancestors and continuously refined through the generations, is most apparent when we are facing profoundly difficult moments, it is the community, the people, who are the essence, in every generation. It is the members of the community, we, who provide the outpouring of care and compassion, the rallying of the human spirit, to pray and laugh together, to eat together, to carpool for one another, to embrace  and to cry together. It is when we as individuals find ourselves most vulnerable that the community of individuals rises up and distinguishes itself, b’kol echadwith one voice.

We all know how easy it is to celebrate, party and share in the good times. It is, however, the character of our local, national and international communities that enables us to share each other's pain. We are there during the painful days of illness when we visit and collectively pray for a complete and speedy recovery of a loved one, to the painful period of mourning, where we ensure the mourner is not alone.

Our calendar is full of examples of community outpouring: the Bar Kochba revolt and re-dedication of our Temple at H̱anukkah, the national day of fasting followed by the community party that is the festival of Purim, our Yom Hashoah and Yom Hazikaron days of mourning and our equally cohesively celebrated holiday of Yom Ha’atzmaut, all of which are celebrated at home and abroad by the community of communities.

We teach our children and must remind ourselves that just as those who came before us have done, so must we do. We say it in the Sh’ma, one of our central prayers: veshinantam levanecha, teach your children, and so we must teach our children and they theirs, that ours is a community of doers. We must invest, through volunteerism and gifts of tzedakah, in our synagogue community, our programs and services, our rabbis and our leadership. As we do so, we build our Beth Tzedec community, and we are built ourselves through the process. We sustain and we grow as a people, as a kehillah kedoshah, a “holy” and spirited community.

When you come to shul (and I encourage you to come often) take a look around at your people. When you stop to think, you can gain comfort in knowing that we are here for each other. When you need us the most and even when you don’t, we are here. When you are a member of Beth Tzedec, you are never alone. I invite you to visit, email or call me and share your thoughts and ideas about your shul. I encourage you to get involved and consider how you can do your part today for the Beth Tzedec of tomorrow.

-- Randy Spiegel, Executive Director