by Adam Silver
(Calgary) – Where has the time gone? It seems like just yesterday Jews around the world were wondering: “What does the pandemic mean for the High Holidays? Will I be able to gather with family? Will synagogues be open, and services be held in person? If not, what are my alternatives?” A whole year later, we are wondering many of the same things.
Over the last twelve months we have struggled with uncertainty, continued to feel isolated, and at times held out hope that this year would be better, that things would ‘return to normal.’
This year has continued to be very difficult for most of us. We have felt alone, we have experienced enhanced anxiety, and chances are that someone we know and care for has been impacted by COVID-19. In the face of all of these challenges, we have continued to thrive as a community. I’m not suggesting it’s been easy, but I have had the privilege of working and partnering alongside many of our community’s organizations, synagogues, staff teams, and volunteer leaders – and Jewish Calgary measures up against any Jewish community around the world.
Our community’s organizations and their leadership have been innovating all year long to keep us engaged, provide Jewish experiences, and support our most vulnerable community members. In fact, the day after last year’s High Holidays, our synagogues were already developing main plans, contingency plans, and more for this year. Jewish Calgary is very fortunate to not only have amazing individual organizations, but a collaborative group that is so much more than the sum of its parts.
The Hebrew month of Elul is a time of preparation for Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. For many of us, we use this time to reflect on our successes and challenges over the past year, and set goals and dreams for the days and months to come. For some of us this means correcting bad habits and expanding on good ones. For others, this means rebuilding relationships and rethinking values.
For all of us, Elul and the High Holidays are a time of renewal; individual and communal. As Jews, we have a reset button built into our calendar, each and every year. However, I’m not sure enough of us make use of this tool. So – especially this year – I would like to challenge all of us to push the reset button.
I’m not suggesting we wipe out all of the good we’ve done, or momentum we’ve started to build toward whatever positive goals we have set. I am suggesting we reset our attitudes, that we find gratitude and compassion for ourselves and for others in the coming year. This has been a very difficult time for most everyone and chances are if you are feeling something, someone else is also experiencing the same thing, too.
When the shofar blasts, when we taste the apples and honey, and when we beat our chests as we atone for our sins, let’s all take a pause to find something – no matter how small – for which we can be grateful. Let’s use that ember to continue to build a light of positivity, of hope.
Let’s each consider what we can do – for ourselves and for others – that will help start the year 5782 off on the right foot. How can we make Jewish Calgary better and stronger? How can we use our Jewish reset button in positive, meaningful ways? What small steps can we take to improve the world for others?
As we contemplate this (as well as how many pieces of honey cake and sweet challah we will eat), my family and I would like to wish each and all of you a Shana Tova U’Metukah – A Sweet and Happy New Year!
Adam Silver is CEO of the Calgary Jewish Federation.