by Adam Silver
(AJNews) – Jewish Calgary, we are an amazing community. For our size, and despite our size, we continue to punch well above our weight. We are active, we are generous, and we are caring. And, make no mistake, we continue to grow in our diversity. While many might want to paint our Jewish community with one brush, we are diverse in our demographics, our political alignment, our financial means, our places of origin, our denominational Jewish practices, our relationships with Israel, our intersectional communities, and in many more ways.
Our diversity is what makes us special and what keeps us thriving. There is so much that each of us can bring to Jewish Calgary and to Calgary at large…if we dare, and if safe and accepting conditions are cultivated to let us do so. If we see one another’s differences as strengths as opposed to barriers, we can create exponentially greater impact. My sense is this starts with knowing ourselves, each of us committing to be better – to do better. Only then can we be confident and comfortable engaging with and embracing others.
As I sat in shul on Yom Kippur, I found myself reading and rereading the Al Chet prayer during which we lament and repent for all of our potential (and actual) transgressions. As you likely know, it is a very long list and many of the items seem irrelevant, archaic, or even silly. However, many are very accurate, and others cause one to pause and think.
My personal favourite that I noticed this year was “…we have sinned against you by succumbing to confusion.” I paused and even giggled at first. Then I gave it some deeper thought. My ultimate takeaway was that claiming ignorance or abstaining from seeking clarity is not an excuse for doing, or not doing something. If we choose to judge someone or something without seeking knowledge, or if we stand idly by while a transgression occurs and say that we did not understand or identify its ramifications, ignorance cannot be claimed as fair reason.
It is incumbent upon us as humans, as caring community members, to elevate our thinking and to seek answers and consider varying perspectives. Initiating and maintaining this practice will better enable us to embrace the differences we see in others as strengths and will ensure Jewish Calgary continues to move forward and upward!
As we celebrate Sukkot – one of my favourite chagim (holidays) – we look to the metaphor of the the four species: the date palm (lulav), myrtle bough (hadass), willow branch (aravah), and the citron (etrog) which combine to make one of Judaism’s most recognizable symbols. Each, on its own, is certainly valuable and interesting, but when bound together, the four items create something iconic. So, too, is Jewish Calgary built through combining families and individuals from different backgrounds, with varied religious and cultural observances, resulting in our amazing and resilient community. The lulav and etrog are not complete if even one of the species is missing, and Jewish Calgary is only complete through its breadth of inclusion and diversity.
In the coming year, I wish for us all to come together like the lulav and etrog, adding value and combining together to be so much more than our individual parts. Only then can we truly be the amazing community that is my – and our – Jewish Calgary. My Jewish Calgary is diverse. My Jewish Calgary is caring. My Jewish Calgary has infinite potential!
G’mar Chatima Tova and Chag Sukkot Sameach – may we all be inscribed in the Book of Life for a wonderful year ahead!
Adam Silver is CEO of Calgary Jewish Federation.