by Adam Silver
(Calgary) – During a recent Zoom conversation with MK Michal Cotler-Wunsh, she referred to some wisdom from the late Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks on the topic of positivity. She noted that he differentiated between optimism and hope in the following way: optimism is wishing for positive outcomes in a passive way, whereas hope stems from the belief that we can and must play a role in making positive outcomes come to life. Both approaches are certainly better than their counterparts, but only hope presents an opportunity and delineates a responsibility for us to actively influence positive results. Being optimistic provides us with a mindset, but being hopeful requires us to embrace our personal role in animating that mindset.
As I write this message we are approaching Shabbat Shemot, the Torah portion in which Moses encounters G-d as represented by the Burning Bush, and we see Moses’ ascension to leader of the Israelites. Despite the incredible story of how Moses was saved as a firstborn male, how he grew up in the Pharaoh’s court, and how he came to see the Burning Bush, perhaps the most interesting side story is how Moses was a reluctant leader.
G-d spoke to Moses and had to address three core excuses that Moses made when he was tasked with leading the Israelites out of slavery. The first concern was that the people would not listen to him, that they would not value what he had to say. His second concern was that he was not good with words, that he couldn’t speak. The third concern was actually a declaration – choose someone else. Moses was concerned that no one would listen to him or value his efforts, that he would be poor at leading and making a difference, and wanted to throw his hands up and defer to someone else.
In addressing the concerns and fears of Moses in Shemot, Rabbi Michelle Missagieh notes that, “All Moses needed to do was be Moses. All each of us needs to do is be the best person we can be, responding to the challenges around us and using the unique qualities we are gifted. It’s about showing up and hearing the call.”
Connecting this thinking to my reference to optimism and hope, it is imperative that we, individually and collectively, be optimistic about the future of Jewish Calgary and the Jewish People, and that we animate the feelings through our hopefulness.
Our actions and deeds must align with our thoughts.
This year’s UJA slogan – “Together, WE CAN” – is not meant to be only words. It is to serve as a call to action and a reminder that we are a community. Like Moses, we might find ourselves being reluctant, concerned, and uncertain. However, it is in each of us to be successful and to lend our talents and passions to Jewish Calgary. We are caring, we are proud, and we are capable of more than we can dream.
Together, WE CAN care for one another. Together, WE CAN build an incredible community. Together, WE CAN do anything. Best Wishes for a safe, enjoyable, and healthy 2021!
Adam Silver, CEO Calgary Jewish Federation