(Calgary) – As I write this message, we are approaching one of my favourite chagim (holidays) –Sukkot. For me, Sukkot is about the fall, the change of the seasons, the smells of the etrog and the act of shaking the lulav and, of course, the yearly reprisal of the ever-temporary sukkah. This year, despite the anticipated comfort of each year’s permanent impermanence, things will be different for many of us.
Two central themes of Sukkot are the temporary but protective nature of the sukkah structure, and the combining of the four species into the lulav and etrog, an example where independent items come together to make something more special than apart. In a number of ways, these themes continue to play out in our community, especially during these very challenging last several months. Please indulge me while I connect both to the challenges and opportunities we continue to face.
The sukkah is a temporary (but sturdy) structure in which we eat our meals during Sukkot, with some families even sleeping in it overnight. The structure is built and torn down each year, yet the memories of our experiences with family and friends last and build on one another to create a collective memory of Sukkot.
We remember the years it was warm or, more likely, the years it was snowing – and we recall the huddling up we did over a warm bowl of soup in the sukkah. Perhaps we save the decorations our children made when they were three years old, and love the fact the very same decorations continue to be displayed when they are 18. We might share stories about the time our sukkah blew down in a chinook, and share details about how we reinforced it the following year, but still kept it kosher.
A collective memory built over years of experiences, all creating a cumulative picture of what this time of year, what this holiday means to us. In our Jewish community, many of us have had seasonal or other episodic but formative experiences which have combined to make us who we are and have shaped our dedication to Jewish Calgary. Like the sukkah, the experiences have likely been different each year but, even in their differences, there have been things to look forward to in regularity.
Following the other theme I’d like to explore, the four species: the date palm (lulav), myrtle bough (hadass), willow branch (aravah), and citron (etrog) combine to make one of Judaism’s most recognizable symbols. Each, on its own iscertainly 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.
At this time of the year, as we are in the thick of our community’s UJA campaign to support important social and identity-building services and programs, we proudly proclaim “Together WE CAN…” and work each and every day to live by those words as a community. Together WE CAN support one another. Together WE CAN get through these challenging days. Together WE CAN be more. Together WE CAN accomplish anything!
Adam Silver, CEO, Calgary Jewish Federation