There's a famous Yiddish saying "shver tsu zayn a yid" -- "it's hard to be a Jew." It's hard to be a Jew*, in these times once again. (*And, of course, only we should get to define what it means to us to be Jewish.) But, it's also wonderful to be a Jew... we are fortunate to have a rich and resilient tradition to draw on, and to have each other as sources of support.
As an American Jew, this past week has felt deeply disconcerting.
Against the backdrop of impeachment proceedings, the president gave aspeech this weekend to the Israeli American Council embracing antisemitic tropes in an attempt to argue that Jews have no choice but to vote for him in the 2020 election. And then, we got wind of an executive order defining Jewish people as a national group... ostensibly drafted to combat anti-Israel sentiment on college campuses. In another time and place, we might have the luxury to debate this designation (which has some merit, but also feels terribly dangerous to me on the grounds of concerns about both free speech and ethnonationalism-gone-awry).However, this week, we don't have any such luxury, because the executive order (with language now slightly scaled back from what was initially reported) comes at the same time as a deadly, targeted attack on a kosher market in Jersey City -- the third antisemitic shooting in this country in just over a year!
There's a famous Yiddish saying "shver tsu zayn a yid" -- "it's hard to be a Jew."
When I was growing up, Jewish identity felt especially hard to me this time of year, as I experienced a keen awareness of difference in this season against the ubiquitous backdrop of Christmas in the air. Now -- in the face of antisemitic attacks, both physical and rhetorical -- the "December Dilemma" feels almost quaint (although still worth discussing, of course!).
During challenging times like these, we need to stick together. To that end, you are cordially invited to join us at Kavana this weekend for Shabbat services on Friday night, Saturday morning, or both! (There are also many other opportunities to be together over the coming week... see below for the full slate of Kavana's programmatic offerings.) Joining together for prayer and learning can help us recommit to the core values of our Jewish tradition, find camaraderie and solace in good company, and tap into the sources of spiritual renewal that give us the fortitude we need to weather the rest.
It's hard to be a Jew*, in these times once again. (*And, of course, only we should get to define what it means to us to be Jewish.) But, it's also wonderful to be a Jew... we are fortunate to have a rich and resilient tradition to draw on, and to have each other as sources of support.
As I sit down to draft this week's message, I pray that you and yours are okay, and weathering this current wave of the pandemic with as much ease and comfort as possible. We know that so many of you have been isolating with Covid or quarantining because of exposure, and others dealing with school closures, work disruptions, and mental health challenges. Please know that the Kavana community is here and intact (even if our activities are online for the next few weeks!); we're all moving through this turbulent time together. If you need support, please don't hesitate to reach out through the Kavana office or to me directly.
Like many of you, I'm feeling the stress of this particular moment. Only a few short weeks ago, the mood felt very different: my household was finally fully vaccinated(!), Kavana was busy planning for a January return to many more in-person events, and there was a generally positive energy in the air... an optimistic zeitgeist. And then (as I'm sure I don't have to explain), this latest Omicron wave hit, like a dark cloud, complicating everything.
As we reflect back on 2021, there is no doubt that this year has been filled with ups and downs, challenges and triumphs. That said, our community has made the most of it, coming together through a wide array of in-person and online events. During 2021, Kavana deepened focus on meeting people’s core needs for communal, emotional, and spiritual support. And when we did find ways to gather -- whether in virtual space, in backyards and parks, through our powerful High Holiday experiences, etc. -- it was magical! See below for snapshots of some incredibly beautiful experiences that we shared during 2021.