Close your eyes and imagine: a hot bowl of soup simmering on the stove, crisp latkes frying in a pan, or a steaming cup of tea or hot chocolate. Can you almost smell it?! As the weather gets colder and the days darker, it's human nature to turn to "comfort foods" for warmth, satisfaction, nourishment and, well, comfort.
Close your eyes and imagine: a hot bowl of soup simmering on the stove, crisp latkes frying in a pan, or a steaming cup of tea or hot chocolate. Can you almost smell it?! As the weather gets colder and the days darker, it's human nature to turn to "comfort foods" for warmth, satisfaction, nourishment and, well, comfort. In our Jewish tradition, food features prominently... from Torah stories (did you know?: in this week's parasha, Jacob's sons sit down to break bread together before selling their brother Joseph into slavery!), to the range of Jewish culinary traditions from around the world, to brachot, the expressions of gratitude for food that can be recited both before and after we eat.
This week has been a big food week at Kavana!! On Saturday following our monthly Shabbat Minyan, multiple community members contributed to a communal kiddush meal. On Sunday, a team of Kavana volunteers led by Julie Burg joined together with other volunteers at Jewish Family Service to pack Chanukah baskets for delivery to JFS clients. It's fun to imagine how the items in the bags - together with the love with which they were delivered - will come together to ensure that someone in our broader community will feel nurtured and supported, both physically and emotionally, this Chanukah! On Sunday evening, Kavana teens in our High school program gathered, with Rabbi Josh Weisman and Kavana "star baker" Atar Baer, to make latkes and sufganiyot and exchange small gifts. (In this case, I don't have to imagine the smell... I can literally still feel the frying oil in the air here at Kavana headquarters!) Lastly, a couple nights ago, Eric LeVine hosted a revival of a Men's Cooking event from Kavana's early days, and the wonderful group gathered in his kitchen prepared and shared a robust "steak and potatoes" meal while building a sense of community.
At Kavana, clearly, we love food (and community)! But, taking things a step further, it is also true that Kavana itself serves as "comfort food" in our lives. For many of us, in a variety of different ways, Kavana is our "chicken soup for the soul"... grounding us in tradition, nurturing us with a sense of connectedness, and providing the nourishment and comfort we need to survive and thrive when it's cold outside!
Thanks for all that you do to feed and sustain Kavana, which in turn feeds and sustains all of us. And meanwhile, we wish you a nourishing, tasty and meaningful Chanukah season.
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.